It’s time, regrettably, to return to the saga of Eloise and Tanya, about whom we wrote a couple of months back. [ http://asirt.org.uk/wordpress/?p=187 ]. As you may recall, we assisted Eloise with the submission of a Zambrano application, since her daughter, Tanya, is a British citizen who has no contact with her father.
The Home Office, disgracefully, refused Eloise’s application for a residence permit, on the basis that Tanya could reasonably be expected to be cared for by her father- a man she has met just 3 times in the 2 years of her life to date, and who has expressed no desire to be a part of her life.
We know now that this decision was by no means a one-off, and are aware of numerous other instances of the Home Office ordering children to live with neglectful, absent, and sometimes violent parents.
As promised, we helped Eloise to submit an appeal against this decision. Which is where the situation went from bad to worse.
While the Ministry of Justice’s Tribunal Service’s guidance specifically states that appellants in receipt of financial support under section 17 of the Children Act- as Eloise and Tanya are, having no recourse to public funds- the Tribunal service returned Eloise’s appeal to us in August, some 2 months after we initially submitted, claiming that the appeal was invalid as not accompanied by a fee of £140.
We resubmitted the appeal, once again noting that appellants in receipt of section 17 support are exempt from fee payment, only to receive a telephone call a couple of days later from a Tribunals Service employee reiterating the claim that the exemption does not apply to Eloise since the section 17 support is for her daughter, rather than herself. This actually is not the Local Authority’s position, since Eloise actually receives a subsistence allowance set at £70 – £35 per person- each week. But even if this was not the case, it is patently absurd to argue that Tanya’s interests in terms of this appeal, at the age of 2, are in any way distinguishable from her mother’s.
We pointed this out to the Tribunals Service employee, who advised us that he would be taking legal advice. We heard nothing more for 6 weeks until today- when we received a letter from the Tribunals Service advising us that Eloise’s appeal has been “struck out” due to her failure to pay the fee. We have referred the matter to a pro-bono barrister with whom we have a good working relationship – Legal Aid no longer being available to families in these circumstances- and we are looking to initiate a judicial review of the Tribunals Service’s decision.
But still. The injustice of this situation is little short of breath taking. Tanya, as a British citizen, has a legally recognised right to enjoy her life in the UK. The law plainly says that she can only enjoy her British citizenship with the help of her primary carer. Eloise is demonstrably Tanya’s primary- indeed only- carer. Eloise therefore has a right of residence in the UK. The Home Office’s failure to recognise this right is plainly unlawful, immoral and unjust.
Yet for the privilege of challenging this patently foolish decision Eloise, a near destitute single mother, is expected to pay a sum of money precisely equivalent to the income available to her to feed and clothe her child and herself for two weeks.
How did we get here? How have we reached the situation where people not only can not get publicly funded legal help to challenge Government departments when they try to separate children- British children, let us not forget- from loving, caring and competent parents- but that the families of such children need potentially to go without food for weeks at a time purely to try to set this situation right?
It has been previously been noted that the Government is seeking to create a “harsh environment” for migrants. [ http://www.theguardian.com/global/2013/jul/12/sarah-teather-lib-dem-mp-immigration-reform ] Yet did anyone- Theresa May, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith- ever actually envisage a situation in which Government departments would actively seek to place British children into potentially dangerous situations purely for the sake of looking “tough” on immigration? And would anybody, other than the most xenophobic sadist imaginable- actually vote for such policies?
We will continue to fight for Eloise and Tanya, and for anybody else ensnared in such grotesque Kafkaesque idiocy.
But, yet again, we can’t help but wonder who will be left to fight if we are not here. Please support our work if you can.