Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Love and Marriage

I just heard from a good friend of mine that his wife and daughter have been refused permission to return to their home in Britain. My friend, a Quaker attender who writes a blog under the pen-name ‘Jeremiah’, is married to an African woman who was refused asylum in the UK. They have a two year-old daughter together, but the UK government wouldn’t allow Jeremiah’s wife to stay unless she went back to her own country to apply for a visa. Under the threat of arrest and deportation she finally agreed, after arranging a safe house where she and her daughter can stay in relative anonymity, as it is still unsafe for her to be recognised there. Mother and daughter have spent the last four months in hiding, waiting to get the necessary documents and then an appointment with the British embassy. And then they refused her.

“We married for love, but that carries no weight with UK Immigration”, writes Jeremiah.

It seems to be taken for granted by the British government that asylum-seekers’ marriages are always ‘bogus’. One of the less well-known Home Office innovations of the last few years now actually prohibits asylum-seekers from getting married. (Jeremiah and JoJo married before these rules were introduced in Feb 2005).

Ironically, through some bizarre loophole in the apparatus of the established Church, the Church of England is still able to marry asylum-seekers who are eligible under its own criteria. These include being a baptized Christian of course. Tough luck if you’re of another faith. Another friend of mine, who is also a ‘failed asylum-seeker’, was able to marry his British partner in an Anglican church through this route, as they are both from Christian backgrounds. They are also in a long-term, committed relationship with a child, so either my experience is very unrepresentative or there is something wrong with the assumptions behind this whole system.

Jeremiah and JoJo are going to appeal the government’s decision.

“In the meantime,” he writes, “we wait and wait. I go to work, come home to an empty house, call my wife every evening. I try to talk to Kébé too, but it's hard to have a conversation over the phone with a two-year-old, especially when she's angry at being separated from her daddy and her home and doesn't find a voice coming out of a machine a satisfactory substitute.”

But Jeremiah did manage to speak to her today. “Kébé talked mostly about her Shirley Hughes picture book, Annie Rose. But she knows something is up. At the embassy she burst out crying, saying ‘I want to go on a plane, I want to go home.’”

You can read the latest news on Jeremiah's blog by clicking here.


Simon Heywood said...

Hi Craig

Pressure of work is lessening over the summer, and I haven't booked my holiday yet, so if anyone wants to grab me for a bit of extra ASSIST/CoS work over August, now's the time to speak up!! Over to you and hope all's good,


Anonymous said...

Wrong heading - should read "Love, Marriage and Politics"...