Hi! This may be too personal, and feel free not to respond to this, but I wanted to reach out re: your commentary on the deportations post. May I ask why you were asked not to return, if you had the valid right to remain in the UK? I'm a bit scared of what's happening at the moment and want to learn as much as I can.
Sorry for the delay in response. It’s still a difficult subject for me.
I went to the University of Glasgow, and taught there following my graduation. I am a Scottish historian and folklorist, so those are the subjects I teach. My partner and I started a theatre company, which turned into a film company (you can see some of the posts today regarding what we have produced). During this time, I had been on a student visa, then a post-study work visa (which was scrapped, along with the Fresh Talent Initiative). I returned for some time on a tourist visa as I was teaching European history in Korea for a while. Then my partner and I decided to live in Ireland because the law (UK citizen must make over £18,600 per year on their own to sponsor a partner or spouse, so marriage is irrelevant) had changed, and we were no longer able to live there together because he didn’t make enough money. Since he is still attending university, he does not make enough even now - and the likelihood of getting a job that pays that amount in Scotland is difficult whether or not you are going to school.
When we were in Ireland, we found out about the Surinder Singh route. The UK citizen lives with their partner for several months in another EU country, thereby becoming an ‘EU citizen’ (which they already were), and then bringing their partner back. We applied for a family permit and were rejected. He had to attend university and I ended up back in the US. While in the US, I was told that I could apply from any country so I reapplied. I was then granted a family permit by the UK embassy in New York City.
Upon returning to the country, you must send this permit to the same place where you apply for the family permit so you can get your five-year residence card. These are supposed to be automatically supplied to people with family permits, for obvious reasons (that is, because you are the family member of a UK citizen). My partner and I have now been together for 7 years, own a house and a business in Glasgow, and all of this is easily documented online because we are in the film industry and therefore have a social media presence. Regardless, they wanted more proof, and a 200 page detailed document of everything we could think of (photos, Facebook conversations, and so on) were sent to the facility. It was one of the most invasive, nosy experiences of my life.
I received the letter. My residence card had been rejected - even though I had the family permit and had sent them what amounted to my entire life story along with my partner’s.
So I had to send in an appeal. They sent me a letter stating that they had received this appeal application. Around this time I was accepted to attend Cannes as a director - you can’t just go there, you have to apply and be accepted. I wanted to promote and hopefully sell our film, Burns Night, as well as represent Scotland at the world’s most prestigious film festival. I called the Border Agency and asked if this would be all right as it was only 10 days. They said it would be fine, but to keep all my paperwork with me.
I went to Cannes. It was wonderful. I returned very late at night as the flight was delayed due to the strikes in France. I went up to the immigration officer and was immediately detained, regardless of the paperwork I was carrying. I was grilled in a back office for many, many hours; I talked about Scotland, what it means to me, and about what I do for a living. The man there said he wasn’t going to make any decisions that night, because it was late, and he’d let me go into Edinburgh and come back in the morning. He told me to make sure I returned that day because he would be working the following night. He was from Glasgow, and seemed to have a positive reaction to the situation.
My partner met me in Edinburgh, and they asked him to go and get the 200 page document that was sent for my residence card. So he went back to Glasgow to retrieve it. I returned to the airport to discover the man I’d met the night before had called in sick. I was taken back into another room by a woman this time, and was grilled again. This lasted for several hours. Then they left me alone in a room with a camera, for a few more hours. On the table was a book about the detention centre, and that’s when I finally cried, I think.
She came back in and told me since there was ‘nothing in my passport’ proving that I could stay, despite the fact that: 1. I had a family permit and should have already been granted a residence card, 2. I had a 200 page document about my relationship, my work for the last 7 years (most of which is about Scotland or involved my getting plays and shows into Glasgow for the first time ever, or as world firsts), and 3. I had the paperwork regarding my appeal with me, and the BA said it would be fine to go to Cannes for ten days…
They said I had one week to leave the country. Then they guilted me about going to Cannes vs something ‘more important, like a funeral’, and also that I cried. I called my partner, who was waiting in another part of the airport, and said ‘They aren’t going to let me stay’. He started to cry and say ‘but I gave them everything they wanted. I gave them everything they wanted’ again and again.
I couldn’t go anywhere else during that week, just stay at the house, which was unfortunate because my show was a special guest at London Comic Con that week and it would have been my first convention appearance, although the cast/crew had represented the show at several others.
So I sat in our house and waited to leave. The cast and crew came to visit me, and I called immigration lawyers, friends who work with immigrants and refugees, etc. all of whom told me there was nothing they could do because the situation in the UK was not great for immigrants anyway. I personally know several couples who have had this experience, where the non-EU citizen is living in another country from their partner because of these laws.
At the end of the week, I went back to the airport. They were deporting me to France, not the US, because that’s where I had come from. They also informed me they ‘had no way of knowing if the French would put me into a detention camp’ but were sending me there anyway. I had decided to fly to Paris instead of Cannes because I had a friend there and purchased my own ticket, even though they bought one for me (I don’t know anyone in Cannes). Then I ran into more trouble because my passport needed to be renewed and you can’t get on a plane to France if you have less than three months on the passport - which, of course, I’d planned to renew in Glasgow as I wasn’t going to be travelling for some time because I wanted to wait for the residence card.
Eventually they forced one of the airlines to take me to France. I received letters from a European legal advice firm stating that the deportation was illegal. The EU Commission wrote and said that it wasn’t exactly illegal…sort of…but was highly unusual, along with the entire situation. I was also told that when waiting for a residence card appeal decision, which you cannot ask them about at all - you just have to wait - you may be waiting for up to 2 years without an answer, during which you apparently cannot work or travel.
I still have not heard from the residence card appeals people. After France, I went back to the US. Then Brexit happened, which further complicates not only my situation but that of EU citizens in the country. My friend in France just told me that one of his friends, a German national living in the UK, received a letter that their residence card was also rejected - even though that person had also been living there for many years. The two actresses I work with who are Swedish have both gone back to Sweden. Two Scottish MPs have written me, horrified about the situation, but their hands are tied because Scotland is still a part of the UK and was dragged out of the EU against the will of the nation. My sound tech just informed me that her friend, who is from Ghana and whose partner is from the UK, has almost been forcibly deported several times even though they too have the right to be in the country. One of my university supervisors, who is Canadian, was woken in the middle of the night, the police demanding his papers. An Australian woman who owned two houses in Scotland was also deported.
If you want to see more on the topic of UK/non-EU couples, you can watch a short documentary online at www.priceoflovedoc.com. The troubles of the non-EU citizens living in the UK are now becoming the problems of EU citizens too. The anti-immigration rhetoric there, which was nonexistent when I first moved to the UK, has reached a fever pitch. You only need to see the tabloids in every corner shop to see that, along with abuse and physical violence.
Right now, given my experiences, and those of my friends, I would advise anyone interested in going to the UK to choose another part of Europe instead. I love Scotland with all my heart, but until independence happens or things change, I would not wish this heartbreak on my worst enemies.
I remain in exile. I hope for Scottish independence so that I - and so many others - can safely return, and new immigrants can find a home where I have had so many happy memories.
So we’re currently experiencing a Tory conference with the most aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric I’ve ever heard in my brief 20 years on this earth.
It’s being pledged by Amber Rudd that she will find businesses who fail to employ British workers and then ‘name and shame’ them. Couple that with businesses being asked to keep lists of foreign workers in their employment and you have a disgustingly toxic environment for foreign nationals living in the UK.
So this brings me to the question. Universities are, of course, educational institutions but like many things in life, everything is business.
So will universities be included in the list of businesses that will be required to hire British lecturers and researchers ahead of any foreign specialists?
Because as a student of languages I couldn’t possibly imagine anything worse. Being taught by native speakers doesn’t just teach me the language it also teaches me the mindset of the culture of which I’m learning the language of.
Now if that’s answered with “well of course we’ll employee foreigners at universities, they are experts in their field” then my next question is where do you draw the line?
Should a foreign specialist engineer not get the job because he’s foreign?
What about a doctor?
And of course if they backpedal and say 'yes all of these are fine’ then that’s a direct contradiction of the rhetoric used at the Tory conference. Their entire stance is mere pandering to UKIP and brexiteers.
I’ll finish up there but leave you with a rather interesting article.
Question being: If 'British is best’ then why are a French company being used for trident’s renewal?