Thursday, August 29, 2013

"The Government won't let my husband into UK - while they talk about bombing the bejeezus out of his neighbourhood!"

This morning, Christine Gilmore wrote an article on Liberal Democrat Voice about why she believes intervention in Syria is critical. She has a different perspective than most of us as she has lived in Damascus. She moved there in 2010 to do her PhD at the university. While she was there, she met and fell in love with Ziad, whom she later married.

Sadly, she had to leave Syria, and her husband, behind in October 2012, because it was getting too dangerous for her to remain there. She has since been trying to get him a spouse's visa to come in to this country. She meets all the qualifications under the new, family rules (of which I am no fan), but the Home Office rejected the application on a technicality. Another application has been submitted, but her husband's situation is becoming increasingly perilous. She told me:
Now the problem of course is that there has been a serious escalation in the war in Syria particularly in and around Damascus. Ziad my husband lives only 15 mins away from the chemical weapon attack sites. One day later there was a huge car bomb near our house. Just yesterday his car was sprayed with bullets and he was detained. I still don't know why. He says he is under threat from the regime who may not now allow him to leave the country. 
She spoke to BBC Radio Leeds earlier this week - listen all the way through as there are several segments with her in which she talks about the danger of her husband's situation and, poignantly, says there are times when she loses hope of seeing him alive again.

Surely the Home Office should be doing something to help UK citizens' families and spouses on humanitarian grounds. As Christine says herself:
Does the UK Government not have a duty of care to the Syrian spouses of UK citizens? Given the imminent military intervention should they not help get them out the country or at the very least speed up their visa decisions? Given Cameron's determination to 'protect civilians in Syria' why can he not start by protecting Syrians with proven ties to the UK? I am not asking for special measures to circumvent the rules (in any case I meet the visa requirements) but simply for my government to stop dragging its feet in determining his visa case in this emergency situation. If my British citizenship, and indeed British values, means anything I beg my government to do something to help my husband get out of there.
There is something inherently unfair about bureaucracy keeping a spouse in danger, particularly if the same government is about to add to that danger. Christine can't be the only person affected like this. I hope that one of our MPs will ask the Government to help these loved ones of UK citizens.


Suzanne Fletcher said...

This is an important point, and after hearing Christine on the radio this morning, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary have added a sentence to their letter to Nick Clegg and other MPs and Peers, on the situation about refugees from Syria and need for aid and support to the countries that nearly 2 million have gone to. the addition is about positive support for people in her family's situation, in getting a Visa to the UK, so the family can be reuinited. We look for some action now !

Unknown said...

That would be Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary - join here.

Best £10 you'll ever spend.

Anonymous said...

Just saw Christine on Channel 4. I hope her case gets more attention now (anyone claiming publicity doesn't ever make a difference is being disingenuous).

Just thought I should point out, if a UK visa isn't forthcoming, there are loopholes in EU law that oddly sometimes allow non-EU spouses to live with British partners to more easily in other EU states (e.g. Ireland, the Schengen Zone) even if Britain won't.

Assuming, of course, they can somehow support themselves there. But worth a thought if a husband is stuck in a warzone.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for your kind words and support. Liberal Democrats have really rallied round to call on the Home Office to acknowledge the moral imperative to help family members of UK citizens trapped in Syria at this dangerous time. There has been no movement frim the UK Border Agency yet but hopefully these cases will create a wider policy debate about our responsibility in such cases. My husband is one of the lucky ones. Although it took much longer than it should have with government offices being closed and employees in Damascus unable to get to work at least his papers are all present and correct. Others, forced to flee their homes because of the fighting have not been so fortunate. Is the Home Office really saying these people who have already lost so much should be denied visas that would reunite them with their family members here? If Cameron and Hague are serious about the UK's 'moral imperative' to assist they should start with these cases that Britain has 100% discretion over and not keep people hanging in bureaucratic limbo while their families are in immediate danger.


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