Home Office policy could separate a married couple just before Christmas. Ben and Brian Page met in 2012 and married in 2014. But the Home Office is threatening to deport Brian, a US citizen.
The Canary spoke to the couple about the case and the situation they’re facing.
On 13 December, the couple has a final appeal to fight this decision. They’ve battled the legal system since May 2015 when the Home Office rejected their first application. An appeal against this decision failed in January 2016. A further court case in August 2018 also failed, and the appeal in December is their last chance to fight the ruling. As Ben told The Canary, his husband faces “deportation from the UK despite being legally married to a UK citizen for four years”.
The Canary has seen a copy of the court documents from the August appeal in which the judge suggested that the Pages “could live together in a third country such as Canada”. Neither of them has any connection with anyone in Canada. The judge also refused to recognise their marriage, as Ben said:
referring to it only as a ‘civil partnership’… Something which many LGBT rights campaigners have pointed out is very discriminatory.
Fighting these cases wiped out the Page’s savings so they’ve set up a fundraising page to help with the costs of the appeal. Brian is “unable to work due to restrictions” and as Ben explained:
I never thought we would be here asking for people to help us stay together. We are hard-working people who haven’t ever asked for anything from anyone until now. After draining all of our savings over the last four years fighting this, we don’t have the money to fight this last bit.
But a high court judge has now agreed with the Pages that “the previous judge made an error in law”. So the appeal on 13 December is vital and is the last opportunity to keep their lives intact.
Home is where the heart is
Initially, the couple lived in North Carolina in the US, where Brian is from. But they travelled back to the UK when Ben’s mother became terminally ill. Brian entered the UK on a six-month visa and as Ben’s mother’s health deteriorated he applied for an extension, however:
A law preventing people applying for visas from within the UK came into force in 2012, but there was plenty of medical evidence for an extension due to special circumstances, which the UK allows you to do on extreme hardship cases. The application was denied.
The couple were advised that Brian should return to the US and Ben should join him there later. But to do this, Ben would need to apply for a work visa. “which would take up to two years and cost thousands more pounds”. They also hope to raise a family, but said that it’s exceptionally difficult for LGBTQ+ couples to adopt in North Carolina. This is the only area in the US they have any friends or family. But there is another vital reason to stay in the UK – because Ben’s father is undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
“All we are asking for is for the Home Office to leave us alone to live our lives”
The four-year battle has taken its toll in other ways. As Ben explained:
Both of us now suffer from mental health issues due to the stress of this process, yet, the judge in her determination letter stated there was “no medical evidence … as to the probable effect of temporary separation on their mental health”.
All we have asked for is the Home Office to leave us alone to live our lives, contribute to society and start a family.
In the ruling seen by The Canary, there’s no acknowledgement of the impact of family bereavement and illness. As Mary Atkinson, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, told the Independent:
We are coming across a lot of situations like these in our advocacy work – couples who, due to family emergencies here enter the UK on a visit visa, despite the fact that under the 2012 rules this basically disqualifies them from then applying for a spouse visa.
According to the Independent, a Home Office spokesperson said:
staff do not routinely comment on individual cases, and that while legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.
All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.
“Just plain wrong”
I’m standing with #BrianAndBen! This hostile environment has got to stop @sajidjavid. We are a nation that does what’s right, what’s just and this is just plain wrong. Your Government May have forgotten British values but the people haven’t. https://t.co/QbmM8dB2Rh
— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) December 1, 2018
Come everyone how would YOU feel if this was YOUR partner, son, uncle, father let’s GO twitterland let’s send @MarkLancasterMK some emails, tweets, Christmas Cards to HELP #BrIanAndBen come on #LGBT community #NUS let’s SHOW these guys WE CARE ❤️❤️❤️ rt https://t.co/gZRfx1bSd2
— Susan Archibald (@susanas4321) December 1, 2018
Singer Beverley Knight also showed public support for their position:
Exactly, married and living happily together for seven years.. and then the #HostileEnvironment wrecking ball crashes into their lives. Wrong, cruel and must be stopped. @MarkLancasterMK @sajidjavid get this sorted. https://t.co/WcYtzrEDgW
— Beverley Knight (@Beverleyknight) November 30, 2018
But time is running out. And in what feels like an added twist of the knife, it’s possible that a loving couple may be ripped apart only days before Christmas.
From the tragic scandal of Windrush to continued forced deportations, the true impact of callous and brutal Home Office policy is devastating. As Brian and Ben’s story shows, yet again, the Home Office destroys lives. Let’s hope that in this case, our solidarity and support helps keep a loving couple together.
Featured image via Ben and Brian Page, used with permission
- Support Ben and Brian’s funding page, and if you can’t afford to make a donation, please share it to raise awareness of their situation.
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