Theresa May’s flagship policy is coming back to haunt her before the general election

May uncomfortable
Sophia Akram

Theresa May’s attitude to immigration has been clear since the start of her previous position as Home Secretary. And it’s fueling her 2017 general election campaign. Intent on reducing immigration numbers, her policies have been variously described as “draconian”, “poisonous” and “unlawful”.

It’s this unlawful dimension to her policies that has led campaigners to target May in a recent petition.

What’s best for the child

In February, the Supreme Court ruled on a policy regarding immigration. The policy stipulates that a non-EEA national can only join their British spouse in the UK if that spouse earns a minimum of £18,600 per year. This threshold increases with the number of children the couple have.

The court said the rule was lawful. However, it noted the rule did not take into account the human rights obligation to consider the best interests of the child. The court said the Home Office should amend the policy with this in mind.

When The Canary spoke to Saima Jaffrie in February, the rules had turned her life upside down. Despite her husband’s £70k salary for a Swiss company, the rules forced her to leave the UK and take her child away from her country of birth. And the Children’s Commissioner raised the “profound” impact the policy can have on a child in a 2015 report. These include feelings of stress and anxiety.

May must apologise

Campaigners now want May to apologise for this unlawful treatment of children. And, furthermore, to allow UK citizens to live in the UK with their husbands and wives.

One of the campaigners behind the petitions told The Canary:

These rules very much belong to Theresa May, as she drew them up when she was Home Secretary – it would be nice to think they could become a bigger feature of this election campaign than they have in other recent campaigns.

This certainly has not seemed to be the case. Instead, May is driving home the net migration target of under 100,000. Net migration is currently around 273,000.

Meanwhile, the impact of the policy has not been trivial.

No small dilemma

For instance, Suzie Chaemcheng (formerly Suzie Hall), a mother, had to move to Thailand to be with her partner. Like Saima, she had to give birth without her husband with her, because his visitor’s visa for the UK had run out. Chaemcheng has suffered from depression as a result of her experience. And she is now facing an even harder feat because she has to move to England to look after her mother, who is currently unwell.

She told The Canary:

I am deciding between my husband and mother. A decision I never thought I would have to make! But I can’t risk her getting worse while I try to earn up to the threshold here.

She is broken apart by the trauma and adds:

My daughter won’t see her daddy for maybe a year. I can cope. But how do I explain it to a child who can’t yet speak herself.

Trying to raise a child, working in a full-time job and studying for a diploma while worrying about her mother has left her feeling exhausted.

And with the Home Office rules as they stand, this approach is typical of what other couples in similar situations have to take. The impact of this policy on family life is profound. But it is yet another policy that May championed when Home Secretary. And she has continued to back that policy as Prime Minister. She now must commit to overturning the policy this election.

Get Involved!

– Sign the petition telling Theresa May to apologise for the unlawful treatment of children.

– Sign the petition asking for UK citizens to be able to live in the UK with their spouses.

Register to vote in the 8 June general election. If you don’t have a national insurance number, a 5 minute phone call on 0300 200 3500 will get it sent to you in ten days.

– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.

Read more from The Canary on the 2017 general election.

Featured image via Flickr

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