Author: Peter Barron
AS a jockey in India, Carim “Frankie” Mohideen rode nearly 500 winners. Now, as the rules tighten amid the intensifying debate over immigration, he is facing a race to stay in his adopted country of Britain.
Frankie, 54, came to this country nine years ago to work as a stable-hand at Michael Dods’ racing yard in the picturesque village of Denton, near Darlington.
“I love my job, I love working for Mr Dods, and I love working in this country. I will be very sad if I have to leave,” he says.
Since he arrived, Frankie has been an exemplary worker – impeccably polite and an asset to the stable. A few years back, he was entrusted with caring for champion sprinter Mecca’s Angel, one of the fastest horses trained in the north in a generation.
He is registered with the British Horseracing Authority, has never taken a day off, has never claimed a penny in benefits, and has paid tax and National Insurance throughout his stay. County Durham has become his home, although he always takes annual winter holidays with his family back in India.
But, unless he passes stringent Home Office examinations before July 15, he fears he will be forced to return to India for good, knowing it will be “almost impossible” to find work with horses because of his age.
So far, he has been able to stay by applying for a work permit every three years. It gives him “leave to remain” status. However, his latest permit runs out on July 14 and, following a rule change, he can’t get another. Instead, he has to obtain “indefinite leave” status, which requires him to pass a “Life in the UK” test as well as an English test.
And it’s not cheap. Nearly £3,000 has to be paid to the Home Office for each permit, plus £1,500 to a company helping with administration. It costs £150 to take the English test, and the Life in the UK exam is £50 a go.
The clock’s ticking. He’s failed the Life in the UK test three times and has one more chance before his permit expires. But the questions are tough enough to challenge someone who’s British through and through, let alone someone striving to make a living thousands of miles from home.
Michael Dods fully acknowledges the need for rules but he believes the system is unfair in the context of someone like Frankie.
“Of course, regulations have to be in place, but it does seem harsh that someone like Frankie may be forced out of the country unless he can pass tests that I think most of us would find difficult,” he says.
“It’s not as if he’s taking someone else’s job – it’s really hard to find stable staff in this country and he’s been great for us. It would be really sad for all of us to lose him.”
Michael’s twin daughters Chloe and Sophie have been downloading mock examinations and helping him to study, but Frankie’s future remains precarious. He has to pass 18 of 24 questions.