Immigration controls, but at what cost?
From reading Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech about the UK’s departure from the EU, it is quite clear that her government’s highest priority is to limit immigration. It would appear this is categorised above all other negotiable issues. What state the UK economy would be left in after Brexit appears to matter little so long as those horrible foreigners could be kept out or kicked out. Is this about protecting British people’s livelihoods? I think not.
Monique Hawkins is a Dutch passport holder who is married to a British man and has two children, who are British citizens, and has lived in the UK for 24 years. To get some kind of guarantee in the midst of much uncertainty over the residence rights of UK-based EU nationals she applied for permanent residence status. This was rejected and she received a letter from the Home Office telling her to make arrangements to leave the UK.
The government already has a track record of breaking up families. Non-EU spouses who wish to live in the UK to join their British husband or wife have to prove that the British person earns at least £18,600 (more if you have dependent children), which is some £5000 above the minimum wage. This has created ‘Skype families’, families separated because of immigration controls whose contact is via the internet.
The government is about to create thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, more Skype families.
My wife is Latvian. We have been friends for 17 years and we got married last year. My wife has never worked in the UK. She has looked after our small boy, and our children from previous marriages. She has never been a burden on the British state. But like Monique Hawkins, she too would not meet the criteria for permanent residence status. Will she receive a letter from the Immigration Minister telling her to leave the country after the UK leaves the EU? If she did, and we exhaust all rights of appeal and litigation using the Human Rights Act is unsuccessful, then we would all pack our bags and head to Latvia. Bye bye UK (probably more expletive-laden words would be said, actually).
Or we lie low, trying to avoid contact with authorities. I have worked with Roma people for many years, an ethnic group of 10 million people across Europe who have been persecuted since they came to Europe some 700 years ago. They have survived - at great cost - genocide, discrimination and prejudice by often ‘lying low’, being almost invisible to those who wield power.
It doesn’t have to come to the conclusion of being told by the Home Office to leave the country. It is within the government’s gift to grant all 3 million EU nationals who are already resident in the UK, permanent residence status. The economy would profit from such a move - the great majority are hard working, tax paying people. And the break-up of thousands of families would be avoided.
Mrs May. If you want to be seen as a compassionate leader who has a long term vision for the country, then do it. Grant permanent residence to the 3 million UK-based EU nationals. Dear readers, if you are uncertain of your or your family’s residence status and the options available to you, check our initiative ‘Mobile EU citizens’.
Alan Anstead, Coordinator, UKREN
This article first appeared on Migrants' Right Network