I’ve experienced the Home Office’s cruelty first hand. It’s unbearable
The ten-year route is the government’s hostile environment in action. Where is the humanity?
I moved to the UK from Bangladesh in 2007, when I was 20, to study accountancy. For the last 16 years I have lived at the mercy of the Home Office and a hostile environment that hits people making their homes in the UK hard.
I’ve experienced the cruelty of migration policies myself – and, sadly, so have my children.
I initially decided to come to the UK because of its high quality education with worldwide reputation, and during my study years in England I dreamed of becoming a qualified chartered certified accountant.
As I was completing my studies, I applied to convert my student visa into a post-work study visa, in line with the policies existing at the time.
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Many of my friends had gone down the same path, and I was determined to use the learnings from my hard-earned education to become an accountant in London.
My wife was planning to join me from Bangladesh, and we were starting to think about building a family. Yet the Home Office decided to deny me my visa due to technicalities – and sent the refusal letter to the wrong address. Because of this carelessness, I only found out about the refusal after the time to appeal the decision had lapsed.
I spent two years fighting this decision in court, during which I was left with no documents. I couldn’t work, and I had to wait years before I was able to see my wife again.
Being left in limbo was horrible and really took a toll on me. I was young, I had valuable skills and a career waiting for me – yet I was forced to sleep on friends’ sofas, relying on their generosity to survive.
And for what? All because the Home Office had decided it had to be tough on people like me, even though I had done nothing wrong.
Eventually, I was able to get a new visa on the so-called ten-year route, and I was reunited with my wife.
Yet my problems were far from over.
Being on the ten-year route means that for a decade I am required to renew my leave to remain every two and a half years, paying thousands in fees for each round of renewals.
My wife and our two children born in the UK also have to renew their leave to remain and pay extortionate fees like me.
While we are required to pay thousands upon thousands in visa renewal fees, at the same time inhumane Home Office rules meant that we couldn’t access any public support – even though one of our children was born with health complications and required constant care.
I was forced into debt, all while knowing that if I ever missed a visa renewal deadline, or if I couldn’t pay the thousands needed in fees, I would lose my right to work once again.
The pressure I was under was unbearable. I had to rely on the help of friends just to make ends meet. Thanks to the help of migrants’ rights charity Praxis eventually I was able to get access to public support and obtain a fee waiver for my last round of visa renewal, but every month I am still paying interest on the debt I took to pay Home Office fees in the past.
A system demanding that people constantly reapply for leave to remain at huge expense doesn’t benefit anyone.
It doesn’t benefit us or our children – who are forced to grow up in poverty, or in families where their parents are constantly working, hoping to save enough for the next round of fees.
And it doesn’t benefit the Home Office, as they have to process thousands of unnecessary applications every year – all while their backlog is growing by the day.
Worse still, the very same people who threw me and thousands more into debt and despair are now debating a bill that would punish refugees just for the way they arrive in the UK.
I know the level of cruelty the Home Office is capable of. If it is not stopped, thousands upon thousands of people will be thrown into misery.
The Home Office should wake up from its horrific dream, and finally do the right thing: start treating people like people, and approach us with the humanity we all deserve.
This is what it promised to do after the Windrush scandal came to light – it pledged to start to see the face behind the case and become a department rooted in humanity.
We need the Home Office to finally put these pledges into action.
The department should drop the ten-year route that is plaguing thousands of us, establish shorter, more affordable routes to settlement for people already living in the UK and shelve any further plan causing untold harm to those seeking safety.
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