By Victoria Granville
In the years running up to the election, the Home Office have hardly shied away from showing their agenda. With the government’s umm-ing and ah-ing on Europe drawing some Tory backbenchers to UKIP, it seems they have clung onto the last thing they can to prevent further defecting, namely to toughen up on immigration. However, by avoiding a decision on Europe, and focusing on immigration, they are jeopardising the British economy, and damaging people’s lives in the process.
On 13th August 2013 June Natcha Nativivat - a 23-year-old Thai citizen - applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). What was to follow was a revelation of the true nature of the Home Office’s agenda: keeping immigration numbers at an all time low by extraordinary means.
On the 14th February 2014, whilst doing her MSc in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, June found out that her application for ILR had been refused. On the advice of her lawyer, she appealed. In March of that year, her father was diagnosed with a brain tumour – she had already appealed, to withdraw and see her father would mean giving up on what she was told would be an easily won case; her family urged her to stay.
June worked hard on her MSc, steering her research in a more Bio-chemical engineering direction, in seeing how drug delivery could be more affective to treat cancer. Meanwhile, her father’s condition steadily declined, and he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in his hospital in Bangkok. With a letter from the doctors in Thailand, proving how critically ill her father had become, June asked the Home Office for her case to be expedited so that the hearing be moved to an earlier date. The Home Office refused on the grounds that her father had to be dying for the hearing to be moved. It is worth noting that a brain tumour is rarely anything other than a fatal diagnosis.
She attended her hearing at Taylor House in London on 17th October. The Home Office had refused June ILR, and was going to continue to do so, as under paragraph 276(a)(v) in immigration law, a person may be given ILR after having lived here for 10 years or more, on the grounds that in that time the applicant has not left the country for more than 548 days. June had left the country for 1137 days.
One may think that the Home Office had a very strong case, but June had been placed in a foreign country, at a British boarding school at the age of 11. She was not living with her family in Thailand, but at a school in Britain. The most influential years of her upbringing had happened here in the UK. For 11 years, she has grown roots here, qualifications, she owns property, she learnt to drive here, and most importantly: she wants to work here, making her a potential economical asset to the country. Thailand is her parents’ home, not hers.
Whilst a minor her parents decided when she would go back to Thailand, which would usually be in the long school summer holidays, however as a young adult, in the 4 years of studying at university, she only left the country for 233 days. June chose to remain here because she wanted to continue to contribute to the welfare of Britain, by working and paying taxes here. This young woman has attained a 2:1 BA from Bath University studying Chemical Engineering, and an MSc in Chemical Engineering from Imperial. She was interested in working in either pharmaceuticals, fast moving consumer goods such as P&G or work as a consultant for engineering firms. In her own words:
“I am now in a good position to make a valuable contribution to British society as a qualified engineer, a field which has a shortage of skilled personnel, especially female engineers. I am particularly placed to make an important and positive contribution – both as a professional and as a role model to aspiring young female students. I have benefitted a great deal from the education I have acquired at some of the top academic institutions in the UK and I am now in a position to develop further as a person and at the same time give back to society from the excellent education I have received in the United Kingdom.”
This is what she said in her hearing in October. During the hearing the Home Office’s agenda was clear to the judge: that of simply keeping immigration numbers down. However, the judge pointed out in her decision that although the Home Office has the right to control the entry of foreign nationals, the decision must be made under Article 8(2). This article states that the Home Office can only prevent the entry of a foreign national when it is “in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well being of the country” and “for the prevention of disorder and crime, for the protection of health and morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”. The judge emphasised how the Home Office never mentioned that their decision was based on the economic well being of the country, as quite rightly, that would be a hard, if impossible argument to win in this case. Moreover, the judge noted how under Section 117B(ii) “that those who seek to enter or remain in the United Kingdom” and “are able to speak English […] are less of a burden to the tax payer and are better able to integrate into society.” Therefore, in her opinion, because June “has gained all of her qualifications within the British education” system, been “educated at Masters level” and owning “her own home”, she “will [therefore] not be a burden to the taxpayer.” In fact the judge ruled that to remove such a potential asset to British society would “be evidence of a failure in the system” and that “such a decision” would “fl[y] in the face of the economic well being of the country and will cause [June] considerable distress.”
With these words the judge ruled in favour of a Human Rights visa. This visa would allow June to live and work in the UK for two years. After those two years the case would then be reviewed. This was not the perfect outcome, but at least now June did not have to choose between her father and her future. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.
The Home Office appealed against a Human Rights visa. Given June’s case, surely this must have been a tactful move. Were they playing with time and with death? As June had made the Home Office aware of her father’s illness, were they testing her time, to see who would be the first to blink? June had not seen her father since 2013 and now his health was in serious decline, her time was limited, and the Home Office knew it. They appealed against her case just before Christmas – a dead end time for getting things done quickly. June spent Christmas with her sister, who came to visit her from Thailand, but together they spent it on Skype, watching their father being admitted back to hospital for the third time in 6 months. On Boxing Day June watched her father being moved to ICU at 05:00 am, and watched her other sister sat next to his bed throughout the night. He was struggling to breathe, and June struggled with her need to be with him, and her guarantee of leading the life that she wanted.
In early January June went to the Tribunal herself to ask for her case to be expedited. She bought all of the necessary documents explaining how ill her father had become. The Tribunal said that her case was being processed, and it was uncertain when a decision would be made. Weeks passed and although she called them everyday, there was still no news from the Tribunal. Her father was now heavily sedated and it was clear that to be able to say goodbye to him in person, she would have to leave. She obtained a CI document from the Thai embassy, which would enable her to leave the country without her passport. She preferred this route to that of officially withdrawing, as that would mean having to call the ‘enforcement team’, who would have apparently ‘escorted’ her out of the country. To be officially deported out of a country that she saw as her own, would have been to swallow the last bit of pride that she had left. Just before she boarded her flight, she found out from the Tribunal that they had accepted the Home Offices’ appeal. This would mean another court hearing, and more months of waiting. She had officially lost.
June’s father died on 17th February 2015, she was by his bedside. Her graduation from Imperial will be in May, and her mother has already bought them flights to go to London for it, as her father would have wanted to be there, and for them to have gone. However, whether June will be allowed back into the country on a mere visitor’s visa is a different matter.
Recently there have been reports of relatives who have been barred from visiting the UK to attend their granddaughter’s funeral. 5-year-old Andrea Gada, who had been hit by a car in Sussex, has had her funeral postponed as her grandparents have been refused to enter the UK on temporary visas. The girl’s mother, Mrs Gada, claimed that because of the situation in Zimbabwe “The Home Office has just been assuming that […] [her] relatives will not go back”. The family have gone so far as to offer to wear electronic tags and report to the local police station, in order for the Zimbabwean couple, Grace and Stanley Bwanya, to be able to attend the funeral. Only after a petition signed by more than 120,000 people, and David Cameron urging Theresa May to look into the case, has the Home Office allowed the grandparents to apply for a temporary visa for a third time.
Earlier in April last year a 19-year-old student, who had been predicted top grades at A-level and had offers from Russell group universities, was deported back to Mauritius. Yasheeka Bageerathi had fled Mauritius with her family from an abusive relative in 2011. The family claimed asylum in the summer of 2013. A spokesperson from the Home Office stated the following: “We consider every claim for asylum on its individual merits and in this case the appellant was not considered in need of protection […] The case has gone through the proper legal process and our decision has been supported by the courts.” In mid-March, whilst Yasheeka was held in a detention centre with nothing other than the clothes she was wearing and some small change, her school began a campaign to let her remain. The campaign compelled the Home Office to be humane and at least allow Yasheeka to sit her A-levels before deporting her. It was 175,000 strong with pleas from politicians and celebrities for the Home Office to show some compassion. Even Air Mauritius joined the campaign and refused for Yasheeka to board the flight on the first attempt. On the second, however, they had to comply, as they have to abide with decisions made by UK authorities. Before boarding her flight on the 2nd April 2014 Yasheeka pleaded, promising that once she had finished her A-levels, her family would leave the UK and find a “safe place” to go.
It seems that in the heat of the election campaign, the Home Office has lost sight of any morals, and focuses solely on beating UKIP’s immigration promises. As the judge in June’s case declared, there is a failure in our system; people no longer count as people, but as numbers to be reduced.
Victoria Granville is Educational Consultant at Carfax Education. Victoria graduated with and honour BA degree in Russian Advanced studies from the School of languages, culture and societies, University of Leeds.
Victoria is a close friend of June, they met at school when they were both 13 years old