Posted on October 04th 2018
Becky met her partner Abdou in Morocco, while she was volunteering in orphanages with children with disabilities. They fell in love and decided they wanted to be together – but the UK’s family migration rules, some of the strictest in the world, dictated otherwise. When Becky became pregnant, the couple applied for a visit visa so Abdou could be present for the birth. The application was rejected; the Home Office said there was no proof Abdou could afford his flights home. In fact, they had already bought the return flight, and included a copy of the ticket in the application.
Their daughter Alia was born prematurely just after Abdou’s visit visa was rejected - the doctors say her early arrival may have been caused by stress. She was in intensive care for the first days of her life, and now suffers from severe anaemia and respiratory problems.
Alia is now 6 months old, but she has never met her father – according to the immigration rules, they don’t qualify for a spouse visa because Becky isn’t earning £18,600 a year. She previously worked for the NHS, as a receptionist and then in a pharmacy, but even then she earned less than the threshold. Now, she managed to find a job that would have left her just under the threshold, but with childcare costs, it would have left her with too little to live on.
“This leads you to really dark days,” Becky said. “I wake up with chest pains every day. I don’t want my little girl to have to live like this too, just because the government is treating her unfairly.
“I get a big backlash whenever I talk about this publicly. A lot of people say: ‘If you love him so much, why don’t you go and live in Morocco?’ I’ve got my daughter’s health to think about – she wouldn’t be able to get the treatment she needs there. And I’m a British citizen – I have every right to be here. But because I want to be with somebody with the ‘wrong’ nationality, people think I should leave.
“I didn’t know about these rules before I was in this situation. I think that’s the case with a lot of people, and as time goes on it’s only going to become more of an issue, with more people travelling for holidays or to volunteer.
“I constantly feel paranoid that my little girl will end up hating me if I can’t sort this out. She’ll go to school or get dropped off at nursery and see everyone else with their dads. Or on Father’s Day they’ll make Father’s Day cards at school – all that stuff will hit her emotionally, and I’m scared already.
“Alia smiled at 3 months and laughed at 5 months. I’m just waiting for her first word now – but it makes me so sad that her dad has missed out on so many different milestones. Those moments are bittersweet now.”