(updates have been added to the bottom of this article – scroll down)
Some disappointing news: the UK government has refused to let Babushka (“Baba”) – real name Galina – visit the UK this Christmas to be with her grandchildren, our sons Tolii and Tosha.
Katya’s mum has been visiting from her home in St. Petersberg, Russia for 14 years without any issue. Until now.
The UK government now claims that they are not convinced that 76 year old Baba has somewhere to sleep and won’t take a job away from another grandmother. Or words to that effect – see below.
Also, earlier this year, 25 June 2013 to be precise, the UK government announced (HERE) that it had eliminated the right to an appeal whenever a family visitor visa is rejected. Great. Not.
NO GRANDPA THIS YEAR EITHER
The UK Government’s decision is especially disappointing this year because grandpa – Andrew’s dad – died earlier this year and so won’t be with us around the Christmas table either – see ‘In memory of Brian Henry, my dad.’
Thankfully “Grangela” – Andrew’s mum Angela – is here with us. She lives in town near us and doesn’t have to worry herself about any jobsworth government bureaucrat getting between her and her grandchildren.
We have informed our MP, Sir George Young, of this whole sorry tale and are hoping that he might be able to find out why, after 14 years of family visits, the UK Government has now resorted to such cruel behaviour.
FAMILY VISITOR – NOT IMMIGRATION
For avoidance of doubt: Baba applied for a family visitor visa. This is not about Baba immigrating; It is about a grandmother wanting to be with her grandchildren over the Christmas holidays (and to be selfish about it, we appreciate her help around the house as we prepare, cook, tidy and celebrate all together – like every other family in the UK!).
Baba would return home after the holidays, as she has done all those other years, to be with Katya’s sister and her kids back in St. Petersberg in the new year.
SUFFERED THROUGH WWII BLOCKADE
During Baba’s visit last year, she met with the World War II veteran in our town that was leading the campaign to get the UK government to award an Arctic Star medal to people that were on the convoy missions to Russia.
Baba suffered through years of the Russian blockade of St. Petersberg (or Leningrad as it was then known) during WWII.
THE WRONG TYPE OF DOCUMENTS?
The application process for a family visa states: “It is not a list of documents that you must submit. We do not expect you to provide all of the documents listed below, it is for you to decide which documents are most relevant to your application.”
For 14 years, Baba has supplied again and again documentation to get her visa. This year, the government claims it wasn’t the right type of documents. You have to guess which documents they want; guess wrong and you lose.
You can’t make this up. What next? Do Russians have the wrong type of snow? Is Baba the wrong type of grandmother? We would be into farcical territory here except that it is our family Christmas that the UK Government is screwing up.
In addition to the documents the Home Office was already given, they now claim that more proof of income should have been given; such as an inventory of her assets (she declared her apartment and savings and investments on her visa application).
Furthermore, the UK government says they wanted more evidence of our “ability to accommodate you [Galina] whilst you’re in the UK.”
Should Baba have included pictures of our bed in the spare room, then? The government doesn’t say.
JOBSWORTH BOX TICKING?
Because all this detailed jobsworth box ticking evidence was not supplied – irregardless of the past 14 years’ worth of visa applications and documentation; and irregardless that the government doesn’t say what is or isn’t required as far as documentation goes – Baba was told by the Home Office ‘entry clearance officer’ named only as ‘MK’ that:
I am not satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that you are a genuine visitor to the UK seeking entry for the purpose that you state.
This is a grandmother wanting to visit her grandchildren over Christmas for goodness sake!
Furthermore, ‘MK’ stated,
You also state in your application form that your daughter will pay for your trip to the UK. However, you have not provided any evidence of what funds are available to you from her.
This, even though ‘MK’ has “taken account of the financial and employment information as declared by you on your application form.”
There’s more. ‘MK’ also told Baba (deep breath!):
I am also not satisfied that if given leave to enter the UK, that you will leave at the end of the period specified by you or that you will be able to maintain and accommodate yourself or be maintained and accommodated by your daughter in the UK without recourse to public funds or taking employment, or that you can meet the cost of your onward journey or return journey from the UK as required by paragraphs 41 (i)(ii)(vi) and (vii) of the United Kingdom Immigration Rules.
GOVERNMENT NOT BELIEVE BABUSHKA GENUINE
So, in summary, the mysterious ‘MK’ does not believe Baba:
(i) “is a genuinely seeking entry as a general visitor for a limited time as stated by him” (note: UK government generally prefer to only refer to males);
(ii) “intends to leave the UK at the end of the period of the visit as stated by him”;
(vi) “will maintain and accommodate himself adequately out of resources available to him without recourse to public funds or taking employment”; and,
(vii) “can meet the cost of the return or onward journey”
ALL HOPE RESTS WITH SIR GEORGE YOUNG, MP
The UK government has really sunk to new depths with this bullshit.
All hope now rests with our MP, Sir George Young.
We – and friends too (thank you!) – have contacted Sir George in hope that he can find a way to bring Baba here for Christmas with her grandchildren.
- 11 November – application form submitted with proposed travel date of 15 December
- 18 November – Galina went to British Consulate with her passport for an interview
- 29 November – rejection letter date (sent to Galina in St. Petersburg)
- 5 December – letter received by Galina in St. Petersburg who could not understand it as she does not speak or read English; she then tried to get someone to translate it to Russian so she could tell Katya what it said
- 9 December – Andrew emails Sir George Young, MP about this issue
- 11 December – faxed copy from Galina of refusal letter received in UK
- 11 December – received this letter from our MP who asks for additional documentation
- 15 December – reply to MP with additional documentation he requested
- 20 December – received this email from MP to Andrew enclosing this letter from Home Office
- 20 December – After receiving the message (above) from SGY, MP, Andrew wrote a letter to the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, MP (cc SGY) to make her aware of this situation
- 20 December – National newspaper reporter interviews us for a possible upcoming article. Reaction from SGY is that he wants to know when we spend another £132 on fresh application so that he “might write in support”
- 23 December – Andrew suggests use of the phrase “Grinch Government” following reaction from his hairdresser to our saga. Thanks Ferne!
23 December – National media appear to be starting to highlight the effects of immigration policies in a wider context (not yet touching family visa issue we have but have to wonder if it next). One LibDem minister tells BBC that the Conservatives “are in a bit of a panic because of Ukip” (his full comments caused a strong reaction); also the cover of Private Eye magazine for Christmas shows people saying to Santa flying overhead “Coming over here taking all our mince pies” and “Go Ho Ho Home!”
- 24 December – All hope for seeing Baba this Christmas is lost thanks to the Government Grinches in the Home Office. Today we received this letter from Sir George Young confirming that only a new application (for another £132 non-refundable fee) will do – so even MPs appear powerless against the mighty Home Office – even the chief whip! Sir George says to include the documents we sent him in his failed attempt to help us; the Home Office grinches refuse to be specific on what documents they need, and have removed the full appeal process. What has gone wrong in the UK that grandchildren are kept from seeing their grandmother on Christmas? Pathetic.
- 6 January 2014 – Happy New Year. Baba spent Christmas with her other daughter back in Russia, since the UK refused to let her be with us. Today we started working with her on a fresh application (requiring another £132 non-refundable fee and our best-guess as to what documents the Home Office want). Once we have heard what the application number given to her case is, then we’ll inform our MP so that he can offer his support for the application. If all goes well this time, then perhaps we’ll have #EasterBaba !
- 7 January – traditional Christmas in Russia (Orthodox calendar)
- 13 January – A second application – and fee! – has been submitted. Will we see Baba in time for Easter? #EasterBaba
- 17 January – Baba visited the consolate in St.Petersburg for her interview, where she presented her passport and supporting documentation. Sir George was informed (he offered to write to the Home Office in support of her new application).
- 21 January – Letter received from Sir George Young MP: “Many thanks for your email, and I confirm that I have written to the UK Visa & Immigration, urging them to give prompt and sympathetic consideration to Galina’s visa application.”
QUOTES FROM LETTERS
We are so very grateful to the people that have written to their MP – and even the Prime Minister! – to highlight our story. Thank you! With their permission, here are a few selected extracts from letters they sent…
Andrew’s mum wrote to Sir George Young…
“How very sad that in the UK it is deemed “Christmasy” to block the flow of family Christmas joy to young children and their families… Our prime minister was “preaching” the importance of family unity only a couple of weeks ago. This is not how it is done!!”
Roy Dykes, who co-lead the very long and ultimately successful campaign (see HERE) to get the Government to create an Arctic Star medal for WWII veterans, has written to the Prime Minister and Sir George about #ChristmasBaba. With his permission, here is a portion of what he wrote to the PM:
“How difficult can one get on a straightforward temporary visit for a festive occasion? We preach to other nations about Human Rights, yet here is a first class example where Human Rights are ignored because of silly excuses in a silly rule – nothing changes in the ‘House of Nod’.
I find it difficult to believe that you have an employee in the Home Office so vacant as to the realities of life outside his office window that he produces these extraordinary views – can we please act as normal human beings and allow this lady into this country?”
Family friend John Buckley wrote to Sir George (aside: I corrected the years references):
“How awful for those two young lads that they are being denied such an important family occasion at such a special time of year.
I am just so disgusted our British Government can do this when she has been visiting for the last 14 years and is 76 years old. Whatever happened to ‘Family Values’?”