Whether you are directly affected by the them, or are called to act about them for other reasons, talking about the Rules is the single most important thing you can do.
Fewer people know about the Rules and their effect than ought to.
If everyone in the UK knew about the Rules and their impact on the divided families, the Rules would change in an instant.
There are a few reasons it is really difficult to talk about the Rules:
1. The Rules are complicated and it can be difficult to feel confident speaking about them – somehow feeling like you don’t have ownership of all the information.
My response is that for you to have an effective conversation about the Rules, you don’t need to know every single tiny detail of the complex policy. That level of knowledge is essential for government ministers, Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs)*, for lawyers, campaign organisations, NGOs, journalists and for those of us heavily involved in the campaign who have a responsibility to command that knowledge. You simply need to know enough to have an active conversation.
Key facts for talking about the Rules:
- The UK currently has in place a system of Human Rights Tiering based on how much people earn.
- It affects everyone in the UK, but generally only those with family members outside the EEA (European Economic Area) know about it as they are the ones coming into contact with the Rules.
- For families without children, the reduced level of Human Rights is for those who earn less that £18,600.
- For families with children, the reduced level of Human Rights is for those who earn less than £22, 400 (one child); £24, 800 (two children); £27,200 (three children) and keeps rising and extra £2,400 with every child in your family.
- It is almost impossible for someone living here in the UK to bring an elderly parent from outside the EEA to live with them. Even if there is nobody else in the world for that relative to live with.
- Applying an economic model to Human Rights doesn’t work.
- The Rules mean that more than 50,000 UK families have faced immigration trauma and untold anguish.
- It is projected that the Rules will cost the UK £850 million over 10 years.
- The Rules are presented as a means of preventing families costing the UK money, but this is simply untrue, and the Government knew that when the Rules were pushed through Parliament in 2012.
- If the Rules stay in place, they ‘set a precedent’ in UK law for our other human rights to be reduced in an economic tiering system.
*That said, the ECOs are poorly trained, under qualified and under a massive amount of pressure as they work within an administrative system which repeatedly demonstrates it is not fit for purpose. Often they do not have adequate knowledge of the details of the Rules and they often make basic mistakes that result in applications being turned down and families being kept apart unnecessarily.
2. There is a lot of very loud conversation in the UK about immigration at the moment, and it can feel difficult and scary to get into that conversation.
I hear you. Being on the receiving end of xenophobic, racist and hateful talk isn’t fun. Being on the receiving end of white privileged talk isn’t fun either. And some of the conversations you have may involve some of those things.
Remember, you don’t have to convince the other person, or solve all of the UK’s fearful island mentality in one conversation. You’re not necessarily looking for resolution or agreement. By sharing the info you have about the Rules you are raising awareness about the Rules and their impact. And that’s all you have to do.
Something else to know, and trust in, is that the overwhelming majority of UK voters (including Conservative and UKIP voters) think that UK citizens with family members from outside the EEA should get to live with them here. The Conservative Think Tank Bright Blue have researched it. When people fully understand what you are talking about, they are likely to be in agreement.
In conversation, it is very easy for all of us (whatever perspective we approach the issue from) to buy into what can seem like a very reasonable economic model. But as you know, the economic model is incorrect and the Rules are projected to cost the UK £850 million over 10 years, as well as the impacting more than 50,000 British families to date.
3. Finally, for those of us in the divided families who are directly affected by the Rules: when someone responds negatively to your story and agrees with the Rules, it can hurt in a really profound way. Our stories, and the love they are filled with, are precious and delicate. When someone, purposely or accidentally, seeks to attack them or undervalue them it feels hugely personal and can be disabling.
There are two ways of dealing with this:
Firstly, forgive yourself and the other person for what happened in that part of the conversation. Then make the effort to really, really look after yourself and treat yourself with kindness if this does happen to you. Phonecalls with supportive people, tea and sympathy, walking the dog and getting the pain out of your system: do whatever you need to do. Find a way to release that negative energy and the fear that comes with it. Keeping it in your body can be disabling. Find a way to get yourself free of it when it does happen.
Secondly, protect yourself from it happening when you can. You don’t have to tell everyone your own personal story – sometime it is clear that they aren’t in a position to receive it positively. If you’re in a conversation with someone about the Rules and you feel that you’re in touch with their humanity, then feel free to go ahead and share your story with them if you want. If your conversation doesn’t feel a place where your story will be met with kindness, then perhaps this moment isn’t the right time.