My Indefinite Leave to Remain FINALLY came through from the Home Office yesterday.  So, I am now allowed to remain in the UK indefinitely, and I can access public funds, which is something of a relief in this economy.  I mean, I’d rather not lose my job, but 3 weeks ago the government would have happily watched me starve.

However, in this incredibly obnoxious article in The Guardian yesterday, Phil Woolas reminded me that the new Citizenship, Immigration & Borders bill is on its second reading through parliament.  This bill will make it harder to get citizenship, with longer waiting times and a stupid “probationary citizenship” stage.  Oh, and you’ll be expected to volunteer somewhere to show that you’re “worthy” of citizenship.   From September I’ll be working 4 days a week at a job that requires a lot of travel (I’m away from home at least once a month), and doing a PhD part-time. And continuing with No Borders and setting up a Feminist Fightback North branch.  But hey!  I’m sure I can fit some volunteering in somewhere.  Unfortunately, activism doesn’t  count.

According to the current regulations, because I actually entered the country in June 2006 on a Working Holiday Permit, I should be eligible for citizenship in about 4 weeks.  So my partner and I have decided it’s worth scraping together the ludicrous sum of money required to apply right away, so that I don’t have to jump through any of the hoops above, and because the fees are only going to keep going up.  Though apparently it’s taking up to 6 months to process applications, begging the question of What the hell the government are spending my money on.

I’ve worked out that, post-citizenship, I will have paid over £2000 in various visa fees.  Which is a lot of money, particularly when we first got married and my partner wasn’t working (we’re still paying off that credit card bill).  We are very fortunate that we are able to put aside money each month to cover these fees, but I honestly wonder what less fortunate people do.  These fees aren’t optional – if I hadn’t had the £800 for the Indefinite Leave to Remain application, then I would have had to leave the country.

So love becomes a privilege reserved for those who can pay for it –I’m sure that’s exactly what Keir Hardie had in mind.

There’s a really good article in current LRB by Gareth Peirce about the UK government’s possible (likely) complicity with torture in Guantanamo Bay and other overseas detention centres.

It’s interesting for several reasons, one of which is that it highlights something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:  middle-class political apathy.  Peirce argues that the government uses secrecy to maintain general apathy towards the possibility that the government is torturing people; people don’t know, so they can’t care.  For me, what is particularly frightening, is that I think a lot of people are happy not caring.

When activists talk about the democratic deficit – the fact that a million people can march against a war and it will happen anyway, the fact that no one thinks ID cards are a good idea, and yet we all know the government will push them through anyway – we are angry and frustrated.  We start trying to think of new strategies; if conventional activism isn’t working, what do we do now?

But when I talk to many non-activists about the democratic deficit, there is almost a sense of relief underpinning their words.  I can’t do anything about injustice/poverty/the war/racism/torture; so therefore, I don’t have to bother. 

European elections are coming up, and there’s been a lot of discussion about the BNP, and the inroads the BNP are making in traditional Labour-supporting white working-class communities.  I have a lot of issues with the way this discussion is framed, which I will be talking about more in the future.  But one factor in the rise of the BNP that is continually overlooked is middle-class apathy.

Part of this apathy is grounded in the fact that a lot of middle-class white people don’t actually disagree with BNP views on immigration even while condemning the BNP.  If they did, then the Labour & Conservative parties wouldn’t be trying to out-xenophobe each other every election.

But even the (middle-class) people in my office who agree with the Labour & Tory immigrant scapegoating (I don’t count as an immigrant for them, what with being white & Canadian) are pretty scathing about the BNP.  Yet, if I sent around an email encouraging people to vote in the European elections, or stuck a “hope not hate” postcard on my desk, I’d get in trouble.

The people in my office, by and large, are not going to vote.  They will condemn the BNP verbally, but they think I’m eccentric, at best, for actually going to protests and having political opinions.  They don’t understand why I actually care about stuff like this.

So the BNP might get an MEP seat, and everyone will tut-tut, feeling morally superior to the BNP while having done nothing to stop them.  The government wouldn’t listen anyway.  Which is just fine, because to quote Phil Ochs “demonstrations are a drag…”  And I hear Debenhams is having a really good sale this weekend.

Yesterday’s Telegraph headline was “The Return of Class Warfare”.  Apparently, the government’s decision to raise income tax on incomes over £150 000 to 50% is class warfare on par with Stalinist purges, etc.

Right now, if you make over £40 000, then you are in the top 10% of earners in the UK.  So, those on £150 000 are a wealthy minority indeed.  Taxing them 50% is not class warfare – it’s basic common sense.

On a 50% tax rate, you would still take home £75 000.  £75 000!!  I actually don’t know what I would do with that much money!!  I mean, there’s only so many pairs of shoes a person can own.  I love books – but you can only read so many at a time.  Also, there are charity shops, as well as this new-fangled invention called ‘a library’.  I like earrings, but I like cheap earrings I don’t have to worry about losing or breaking.  I own one really nice pair of pearl earrings that my favourite aunt (and godmother) bought me when I got married, and a really nice necklace I bought myself for my wedding.  And I wear them about once a year – they’re too nice to wear every day, they don’t match anything else I own, and I worry about losing them.  I suppose I could buy a house, but there’s just me and my partner, no children, so there’s not much point in buying a very big house is there?  Just  more cleaning to do (by which I mean, for my poor put-upon partner to do, as I am a slob).

At some point, I think people are obliged, not just practically but also ethically, to ask themselves – how much do I really need?  I’m not suggesting everyone should live a life of extreme asceticism.  Have fun!  Go to plays!  Go on holiday!  Buy that really nice pair of shoes!!  But at some point, it has to be recognised that no one needs 34 pairs of shoes, and that apples from Waitrose taste the exact same as apples from Aldi.  Having a 3 bedroom house when you live alone is actually immoral in a country where others are homeless.

I also think people who are making anywhere near £40K + are obliged to step back and recognise how lucky they are, financially (unless of course they are supporting 6 children with that one salary or something).   My partner and I are both working, both making middle-class salaries, for the first time since we’ve met.    Our combined income is about £40 K, and you know what – we’re doing really well.  It’s a huge change from last year, when we were living on my salary alone (which worked out to both of us working full-time for less than minimum wage), and each heating bill was a major crisis.  At the moment, if we weren’t trying to pay off our myriad debts before deflation sets in, we’d have ludicrous amounts of disposable income.  I’d be able to actually buy stuff at Monsoon instead of just looking longingly through the window (not a lot of stuff, mind you).  So when a couple in The Guardian talks about struggling to get buy on twice as much – I’m sorry, but my sympathy is limited. 

With all the panic about the Recession, there’s very little concern for the people who are going to be hurt the most.  There is this weird disjuncture between the “money-saving tips” found in The Guardian and the rash of new budget books, and the actual lives of a lot of people in the UK.  Most of the “money-saving tips” are things I’ve been doing my entire adult life, out of economic necessity at first, and then later, out of a dislike of waste.  Of course you should plan out your meals for the week and then draw up a grocery list, rather than just buying food at random.  Not only will you save money, but you won’t waste food.

But there are a lot of people who have either been doing this already, or for whom this is already extravagant – people who go to Asda, buy whatever is on sale, and then work out what can be made with it, even if it’s not terribly nutritious.  They can’t cut back anymore,  not without giving up food, or heating.  There’s a phrase used in Toronto to describe the situation of people on minimum wage or benefits – “Pay the rent OR feed the kids.” 

There is nothing in this budget that is going to really help those people – child benefit has gone up a pathetic £20/year. 

So yes, if you make £150 000/year – you should be paying at least 50% tax.  Outside of London, if you make £40 000/year, you are comfortably upper middle class (and in London, comfortably middle class).  If you are making more than £20 000 and you have no children, then you are doing better than at least half the country.

Actual class warfare would involve massive redistributions of wealth, so that no one is wondering how they’re going to make rent this month.  It would involve a mainstream media that recognises that going out for dinner once a week instead of twice a week is not a “money-saving tip” if you’re struggling to pay for groceries.  And it would involve all of us who are middle-class seriously reconsidering our priorities, and recognising the difference between “want” and “need.”

I’m Alive!!!  But really, really busy with activism, and work, and PhD applications.  It’s quite possible no one is actually going to read this, due to my extended absence.  Also, I wish I could write something about the G20 protests, but I’m not there as I couldn’t get the time off work.

  • ************

Rahila Gupta has an mostly very good article in today’s Comment Is Free arguing in favour of the European Convention on Human Trafficking, which would allow women up to 90 days of accommodation in which to gather evidence that they have been trafficked and apply for asylum. 

Unfortunately, in the article, Gupta says that 80% of prostitutes in the UK are foreigners, and that most of them were trafficked, and condemns those who would rubbish those statistics.

Here’s the thing – it’s fully possible to “rubbish” that particular claim and still agree with every other word in Gupta’s article.

There were serious methodological issues with the survey that claimed to find that most foreign prostitutes were trafficked – among other things, the authors interpreted a willingness to have anal sex as proof that the woman in question was trafficked.  Good methodology is important – as sociologists, are we interested in the truth, or in what “proof” would best serve our particular view of the world?

That being said, of course women who are trafficked should be allowed to stay in the UK.  And of course, as Ms Gupta says, a lot of women in sex work are not there by a full and free choice but because the situations in which they find themselves provide them with no better option.  And of course we have to provide exit strategies for anyone who wants out of the sex industry. 

I feel, however, that the government approach to trafficking, which includes the acceptance of the statistics quoted above, actually makes migrant women, trafficked or not, more vulnerable to being exploited and forced into the sex industry.   The government defines trafficking very narrowly – and any organisation, like the Poppy Project that requires government funding must adopt this definition.  This definition would continue even if women are given 90 days to decide if they want to contact the police.   Women who knowingly came to the UK illegally and were coerced into sex work, or became prostitutes willingly but were deceived about the hours, or became sex workers later because no other jobs were forthcoming given their lack of papers – none of these women would necessarily qualify for government assistance.

Furthermore, the government uses the spectre of supposedly widespread trafficking to justify crackdown in immigration and more authoritarian border controls – the new concentration camp for migrants being built in Calais, for example, has been portrayed by the government as necessary to prevent human trafficking. 

Finally, let us not forget our sisters (and brothers) in other industries, where they are viciously exploited and subject to sexual violence.  While the government pretends to care about trafficked sex workers, Transport For London is having many of the tube cleaner union activists deported, in retaliation for their union activism.  Many of these women have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape on the job – but somehow, this sexual violence is of no concern to the government.

One of the many reasons I have undying respect for Rahila Gupta, even where I disagree with her, is that she knows this and incorporates it into her analysis of the situation of migrant sex workers.  In her book Enslaved, Ms Gupta profiles not only a sex worker, but also a domestic worker, a women in an arranged marriage, a (male) construction worker and an asylum-seeker.  She makes it clear that non-status women in any industry are very vulnerable to sexual violence.  She also argues that the only way to eradicate this exploitation and violence is by eliminating all immigration controls.

In the short-term, advocating for the Convention may be the best way forward, though it is crucial that feminists engage very warily with the government, and recognise the shortcomings of this law.

However, in the long-term, only the abolition of immigration controls, and the establishment of a society where no one is forced to become a sex worker / prostitute to fend off starvation, will end human trafficking. 

While I may disagree with Ms Gupta’s acceptance of the quoted statistic, I fully support  her goal of abolishing immigration controls.  And I think this is very important to emphasize – that a lot of people who “rubbish” those stats still agree with  most of what Ms Gupta says are still vehemently opposed to trafficking and to the exploitation and abuse of any migrant workers, regardless of whether they were trafficked or not, and believe strongly in providing all sex workers / prostitutes with exit strategies.   Hopefully, we can build a movement from these common goals and agree to disagree on peripheral issues.

Feminist Fightback was specifically singled out in Cath Elliot’s article ‘The Great IUSW Con’, and formulated the following response.  I was asked if I would post it on my blog, which I am doing.

Reply to Cath Elliot’s ‘The Great IUSW Con’

Having been mentioned several times in Cath Elliot’s ‘The Great IUSW Con’, Feminist Fightback would like to reply to the accusations levelled at both the IUSW and Fightback’s support for sex workers’ rights. We have been saddened to read yet another abolitionist article which, rather than engage in thoughtful and honest debate, seeks to obscure the issues through factual inaccuracies and faulty logic.

Feminist Fightback supports the right of sex workers to organise amongst themselves to fight exploitation in the sex industry and transform the conditions under which they work. The International Union of Sex Workers is the only such organisation in the UK, as a result Fightback has supported this union and worked alongside it, just as it has a number of other trade unions on various different issues. Some of us have attended London IUSW meetings that are open to allies, while a few other Fightback members are themselves sex workers and members of the IUSW. Cath Elliot’s supposed ‘exposé’ hardly strikes us, then, as a piece of biting investigative journalism. We have no need of her advice to be careful of who we make alliances with for we are perfectly capable of investigating, analysing and making judgements about the political issues on which Feminist Fightback campaigns.

It is no secret that Douglas Fox, a male escort who also runs an agency, is a member of the IUSW. But Cath Elliot seems to think that by ‘uncovering’ this single fact she has discredited not only the entire union but also all arguments in favour of sex workers’ self organisation and decriminalisation. Through an absurd leap in logic Elliot moves from a discussion of Fox to conclude that the IUSW is ‘populated with pimps, agency owners and punters’. Unfortunately no other evidence for this is offered. Nor does Elliot offer any further arguments against sex workers’ right to unionise. In the absence of more sophisticated debate, we’d like to address Elliot’s accusations one by one.

It bears re-stating that because one member of the union runs an escort agency this does not mean that all members are ‘pimps’ and punters. In working with the IUSW we have met members in a variety of jobs in the sex industry including strippers, maids and men and women selling sex in brothels and working independently. Unlike other trade unions the IUSW finds itself in the position of seeking to organise workers who are effectively illegal, denied the right to work by laws which criminalise the conditions under which sex is sold. Decrimalisation is deemed a pre-condition to transforming working conditions and challenging the exploitation which takes place within the sex industry. For this reason union membership is open to others working for decriminalisation, including academics and researchers in this field.

Moreover, the GMB membership ensures confidentiality, for how else could a union seek to recruit illegal workers? It also seeks to challenge the fetishisation of ‘prostitution’ by actively recruiting from a variety of jobs within the sex industry, including, for example, security staff in strip clubs or receptionists in brothels. This is a common trade union approach – to organise all workers in a particular industry collectively rather than pick out a particular trade or role in isolation. (A comparison is the RMT union whose members include drivers, platform staff and cleaners on the London Underground.) We ask Cath Eliott what she would like the union to do? Demand that each individual out themselves? Specify exactly how much cock they suck, whether the do or do not do penetration in order to confirm for her whether they can truly be considered ‘authentic’ sex workers?

This concern for so-called authenticity is worrying. By implication it equates suffering with legitimacy. Does a woman who sells sex have to be addicted to drugs, working on the street and regularly beaten and raped in order to qualify to speak on behalf of sex workers? Can we not accept that a variety of experience exists in the sex industry? Can we not recognise that trade unionism is often about better off workers working alongside those experiencing the worst conditions, in order to improve the lives of all? In fact, we suggest that for Cath Elliot and other opponents of sex workers’ rights, the only ‘authentic’ sex worker is the sex worker who agrees with them.

Since Cath Elliot raised the issue of who, as feminists, we make alliances with, we would like to question the company she keeps by supporting the proposed government legislation to further criminalise sex work. The Policing and Crime Bill proposes to convict clients buying sex from anyone who is ‘controlled for gain’, strengthens police and local government powers to close down brothels, and further criminalises women working on the streets. (See the Safety First Coalition website for why this will make conditions more dangerous for sex workers). This legislation has been vocally supported by Cabinet ministers Harriet Harman and Jacqui Smith, politicians who Feminist Fightback would likewise urge Cath Elliot to think twice about allying herself with. Among the numerous attacks on working-class women that these supposed champions of women’s rights have voted through include Harman’s drastic cuts to single parent benefit in 1997 and Jacqui Smith’s support for a draconian immigration system which regularly deports women who have been the victims of sexual violence back to the very countries from which they have fled. If Cath Elliot wants to purge the feminist movement of women’s real enemies then she might do well to start with Smith and Harman.

Finally, we would like to raise the wider question of why so many wish to block open debate on the subject of sex work – be this through refusing to speak on platforms where the voices of those they disagree with will be heard, through misinformed smear campaigns against sex workers’ organisations, or through mythologising and false claims regarding trafficking (for the government’s almost total lack of actual information on sex trafficking see here). Why does such a fundamentalist attitude persist around feminist responses to sex work? Why can we not think through the complex issues? Why can we not try to deal with the messy reality of the situation rather than resort to myth-making and scare mongering?

Those who want to decide whether they support the IUSW can find out what this union is and stands for for themselves – by reading IUSW materials and website, talking to the GMB or listening to IUSW representatives when they speak at events. We in Feminist Fightback continue to discuss and debate with each other what we think about the multifaceted issue of sex work. We do not claim to agree with every individual member of the IUSW, any more than we agree with all the policies of the other trade unions whose members we work with. We do, however, believe that anyone who is serious about fighting violence and exploitation in the sex industry needs to side with the workers organising within it, rather than seeking to criminalise or deny such workers a voice.

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED

January 20, 2009

From Women Against Rape:

Rape survivor detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre

and facing removal today Tuesday 20 January, at 7pm

 

Please phone or write to:

1.    Phil Woolas MP, Immigration Minister, Home Office Minister of State for borders and immigration, UKBApublicenquiries@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk

2.    Jacqui Smith MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office Fax 020 8760 3132 Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

3.    European Court of Human Rights,  Fax: +33 (0) 3 88 41 27 30,  Tel: +33 (0) 3 88 41 20 18

4.     Kenya Airways Flight KQ101  Telephone 01784 888 222

Ms Flavia Nambi has been in Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre since Wednesday 14 January. She has been given Removal Directions for this evening.  She is at risk of taking her own life and is on suicide watch. 

 

Evidence of rape submitted to the Home Office.  A fresh claim lodged in December included compelling expert evidence from WAR and psychiatrists corroborating her account of brutal gang rape by Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers.  As a result, the Home Office have for the first time accepted Ms Nambi is a rape survivor but are still insisting she should be sent back. 

 

Ms Nambi could not survive if sent back. Ms Nambi lives in the UK with her Aunt who is her sole surviving relative from the terrible conflict in Uganda.  She has no-one to whom she could turn for help and expert testimony confirms that women in Ms Nambi’s vulnerable state could not survive if sent back. 

Other women returned face rape and other torture.  WAR has first hand accounts from women who have been returned to Uganda of the deprivation, rape and other torture that they suffer. The Home Office has refused to monitor or investigate what happens to women in these circumstances. 

 

This is the THIRD time Ms Nambi has been detained.  Last time she was so traumatised, she lost her memory, became profoundly depressed and was close to taking her own life.  After her release, despite her own ill health, Ms Nambi has been dedicated to helping other women in detention who share her experiences.

 

Refusal to acknowledge rape breaches international obligations.  The Home Office by refusing to reconsider it’s responsibilities to Ms Nambi, now it has accepted she is a rape survivor, is flouting its international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention of Human Rights.  What use are its own “gender guidelines”[1] if in reality officials decide that it makes no difference whether or not someone has suffered the devastating trauma of rape?   

 

The treatment of rape survivors.  Like many survivors, Ms Nambi could not give an account of the rape she suffered to Home Office officials when she was first interviewed about it.  Court precedents have long established that, considering the stigma and discrimination faced by rape survivors, delay in reporting rape shouldn’t be used to throw doubt on a woman’s credibility.[2] Immigration Judge D P Herbert, who presided over Ms Nambi’s case at appeal agreed: 

 

“I accept as wholly plausible the explanation given by the appellant that she was too embarrassed and humiliated to disclose this to the Immigration Officer upon arrival.”

 

He ruled that she should not be returned.

 

I find that given the fact that this is a young woman who has been raped and treated in the most appalling manner by the Lord’s Resistance Army simply to return her to the capital city Kampala where she has never lived and has no family connections or means of support would be unduly harsh.” 

 

The Home Office appealed this decision and at the hearing Judge Handley went beyond his remit and accepted the Home Office argument that delay in reporting cast doubt on Ms Nambi’s account of rape.  Further appeals failed because higher courts ruled that whether Ms Nambi had been raped was irrelevant as she could safely be returned to another part of Uganda.

 

Removal scheduled for today.  Today Ms Nambi’s lawyers will take her case to the Appeal Court to try to prevent her flight.  We are determined to do everything we can to prevent her suffering any further, and are asking for your help by writing or phoning the above. 

 

Please send copies of emails/faxes of any letters you write to: war@womenagainstrape.net  Fax: 020 7209 4761

 



[1] See campaign Black Women’s Rape Action Group’s Asylum from Rape petition for the re-instatement of the Guidelines, for more information about this and how you can help by signing and circulating Black Women’s Rape Action Group’s Asylum from Rape petition.

[2] In 1998 WAR helped establish the High Court precedent that women may be unable, not unwilling, to report rape and therefore are entitled to further consideration of this “fresh evidence”. RvSSHD ex parte Ejon,(QBD) [1998] INLR 195



 

Make a date with Feminists!!

GENDER/ RACE/ CLASS: AN ANTI-CAPITALIST FEMINIST EVENT

Sat 14th Feb, 10.30am -6.30 pm, Tindle Manor, 52-4 Featherstone St EC1 (nearest tube Old St.) Fully accessible venue. This event is free!

 

for more info see www.anticapitalistfeminists.co.uk

to register email anticapitalistfeminists@gmail.com

Discussing and organising our fight for women’s liberation – open to all those who want to learn, think and plan for grassroots feminist activism… Join us for workshops which identify the interconnections between oppressions and our struggles against them. Work together with other feminists to find ways to actually change the material conditions of women’s lives.

Workshops include: learning from feminist history/ sex workers’ rights/ challenging domestic violence/ international solidarity/ a woman’s place is in her union?/ reproductive freedoms/ rape and asylum/ community organising/ queer and trans politics/ prison abolition/ self-defence workshop/ feminists and the capitalist crisis/ films, stalls and campaign planning

Free creche – please register by email by Friday 6th February

Stalls available – email laurarogers53@gmail.com to book

Organised by a coalition of groups and individuals. Groups involved so far include: Anarcha-Fem Kollective, All African Women’s Group, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, English Collective of Prostitutes, Education Not for Sale Women, Feminist Activist Forum, Feminist Fightback, Left Women’s Network, London Coalition Against Poverty, Permanent Revolution, RMT Women’s Committee, Women Asylum Seekers Together, Women Against Rape, Workers’ Liberty.

PLEASE FORWARD FAR AND WIDE AND ADVERTISE ON YOUR BLOG.

I’m Back!

January 13, 2009

I’ve been in Canada for the last two weeks (and am now so badly jetlagged I can barely remember my own name).   Apologies for the lack of posts, and the delay in approving comments.

Draft Letter to Jacqui Smith

December 10, 2008

For those of you who are busy, please find below a draft letter to Jacqui Smith regarding deportations to the DRC.  Please feel free to cut & paste & modify it however you like.

**************************************

Dear Jacqui Smith

I am writing to you to express my concern at the plight of Congolese asylum-seekers in the UK.

The High Court has recently ruled that “failed” Congolese asylum-seekers can now be deported at any time, a ruling which is likely to impact over 5 000 people.

As you are certainly aware, the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently in a state of civil war.  Violence is endemic, and women are at particular danger as the use of rape as a weapon of war is very widespread.   The Amnesty International 2008 Report states:

 “Political and military tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) resulted in major outbreaks of violence in the capital, Kinshasa, and Bas-Congo province.  Unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the security forces and by armed groups were common across the country, in many cases directed at perceived political opponents.  Rape by security force members and armed group fighters continued at high levels.”

At this very moment, the Amnesty International website states “The situation in the DRC remains on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.” 

Under the circumstances, deporting anyone to the DRC is akin to sentencing them to death.   Furthermore, as a feminist, you cannot possibly be sanguine about the appalling sexual violence awaiting any women that are sent to the DRC – in fact, it is almost certain that all of the women who are facing deportation have already suffered rape and other sexual violence.

Consequently, as a feminist myself,  I urge you to immediately declare a moratorium on all deportations to the DRC. 

I would appreciate the courtesy of a reply, as I am very interested in your thoughts on this issue.

Yours sincerely

I Want My £1500 Back!!!

December 9, 2008

The Queen’s Speech last week contained the government’s proposals regarding yet another new immigration bill.  Apparently, immigrants must now “earn” citizenship, and if we volunteer and don’t have a criminal record, we can get citizenship in as little as 6 years.  If you don’t volunteer, it may take as long as 10 years.  At the moment, people on work permits have to be here for 5 years to qualify for citizenship.  People on spousal visas have to be here for two years to qualify for unlimited leave to remain and after an additional three years can apply for citizenship.
And after you are a citizen, you STILL can’t access benefits for another 1 – 5 years.

Also, there was a suggestion that people who are here on family visas, whose relationships have broken down will be asked to leave.  Right now, if your marriage breaks up during the two-year limited leave period, you have to leave, but not if it breaks up after you have unlimited leave (hence the use of the term “unlimited”).  I wonder if this means that you  now will be deported if you divorce during this period.  This would mean that you would have to be married for up to 10 years before you’re “safe”.  Now, I intend to be married forever (touch wood) but a lot of marriages break up within 10 years, and often these marriages have produced children.   How is that custody arrangement going to work, if Mom lives in the UK and Dad lives in Australia?   What happened to the “family-friendly” Labour government? 

Plus, how is this going to impact the No Recourse campaign – it sounds like there might now be No Recourse for up to a decade!! (But Jacqui Smith is a feminist!!  Really she is!)

Interestingly, this is NOT what last year’s green paper said.  The idea of “earning” citizenship was in there, but the government was actually going to force people to apply for citizenship after three years.  Obviously there were serious issues with this plan as well – what would people from countries that forbid dual nationality do?  Plus, it was pretty obvious from the paper that the government was hoping that holding citizenship would make people feel “British” (whatever that means) rather than having to make an actual effort to improve social cohesion, say by not appointing an immigration minister who manages to say something racist every time he opens his mouth.  I can only imagine the recession meant that scapegoats were needed, fast, and the spectre of immigrants stealing “our benefits” was impossible to resist.

Finally, the government is going to raise a “levy” on migrants to pay for our impact on local services.

  • It cost me £135 to apply for permission to get married – yes, you need government permission to marry a non-national in the UK.
  • It cost me £500 to apply for limited leave to remain at the Liverpool office.  I could have applied via post for the “low” price of £350, but that takes 4 – 14 weeks, and the government holds your passport during that time, and if they lose your application it’s your fault.
  • It will cost me between £500 – £750 pounds to apply for unlimited leave to remain when I am eligible in 2009.
  • Additionally, if there is a charge for the “life in Britain” test, I will have to pay that.
  • I will have to pay the cost of a “national identity” card.
  • When I apply for citizenship, I will have to pay the fee for that, which is currently £750, and will undoubtedly be more by the time I can actually apply.
  • In addition to all this, I pay taxes on my income, and I pay council tax. 
  • I am not eligible for benefits, so while everyone is worried about the credit crunch, I do wake up nights terrified of losing my job.  We can’t live on my partner’s income alone, and the government is quite literally happy to see me starve.

There is no way that the hour I spent in the Liverpool office cost the government £500.  So, I have to ask:

WHAT THE HELL DID THEY DO WITH MY MONEY?!??!?

Even if I never apply for citizenship, it will have cost me upwards of £1500 to marry my partner and for us to live in the same country.  And the government is already getting all of my tax money as well.  Study after study has shown that the average immigrant actually contributes more money to the government than the government spends on her.  So the government is already profiting from immigration.

I want my money back!