In 2012, fearing the rise of UKIP and wishing to satiate the hunger of an increasingly rabid right wing press the Tory government implemented a ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy. The aim was to stem the flow of migrants into the UK by making it hard to come here, stay here or even wish to be here – while feeding off the festering tide of bigotry then taking grip in Britain – even as we prepared for the Olympics.
Home Secretary Theresa May, Britain’s most famous church goer, even boasted that she would ‘deport first and hear appeals later’ – while her department introduced a new and stringent set of rules on family migration into the UK.
As ‘Go Home’ vans toured the regions – ordinary lives were torn apart.
Among the many people affected were Andy and Molly Russell. Andy a TEFL teacher had met Molly (born Lili Shao) while working in China. Having married and had two children the couple had settled near Bath and were building a life together, even as the regulations were brought in. TEFL is a massive sector in the UK – employing thousands of mostly young graduates and adding around £1.6 billion to the UK economy (more than fishing). The benefits of a TEFL teacher’s life include the possibility of travel and potentially stimulating work – but nobody ever got rich in the profession and Andy was struggling to bring in the £18,600 which was now required if his wife was to be allowed to stay in Britain.
It was not to be.
Eventually Molly was obliged to leave the UK, Andy and her two small children, Dylan then aged 5 and Devon then 3 – and return to China.
The family spent the next year communicating via Skype and Molly became known as ‘computer Mummy’. For a year she was separated from both her husband and her two kids as Andy worked frantically to secure enough money to allow her to return. Eventually the hurdles were cleared and she was able to come back. That was in 2013.
The Russells now have three children – having had Charlie in the intervening years.
Last week, after over five years in limbo and having spent thousands of pounds on visas and paperwork, Molly’s application for indefinite leave was turned down. Despite providing evidence he had earned a salary significantly above the threshold every year since 2013…. despite proof from HMRC that national insurance and tax had been paid… despite bank statements, letters from employers, and independent verification from an accredited accountant – the Home Office turned them down. Their conclusion that Andy’s earnings were £100 below the £18,600 threshold is hotly contested by the Russells – but what hope is there for one family against the might of a faceless bureaucracy.
Now the Russells and their 3 children face more anxiety and uncertainty and the very real risk of separation.
The stress of this has naturally overwhelmed them both and taken a huge mental toll. They are obliged to begin the whole procedure over again and face more years of mental and financial torture.
Since tweeting about this at the weekend I have received emails and DMs from many other people in similar circumstances. It seems that despite her protestations of Christian faith – to fall in love and yet fall below a financial threshold in Theresa May’s Britain is to render yourself unworthy of living here. Your life and the lives of your children and loved ones are of no value – and you must be split up – returned to square one on the snakes and ladders of the immigration process.
Andy has said in a series of FB messages that he doesn’t seek publicity – or want it – all the Russells want is what anyone with young children – or indeed any of us want. The chance to live our lives. Security, a roof over our heads and the chance to get on with raising our kids – but in Brexit Britain that’s clearly a demand too far.
I have written many times before about how this otherwise great country seems intent on turning itself into a vile, mean spirited and horrid little place. The long term project to replace Great Britain with Hate Britain seems to be winning out – and Molly, Andy, Devon, Dylan and Charlie are but five of its sacrificial victims.