This column appeared in the 14/06/19 edition of the South London Press.
I’m sure South London Press readers will be familiar with the Government’s hostile environment immigration policy (put in place by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary). It is designed to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible, in the hope that people without leave to remain will decide to return home voluntarily.
Every week my caseworkers and I are contacted by people experiencing problems with their Home Office applications. Often, they have been waiting years for a decision or for documents to be returned, leaving them unable to work or access vital services. In some cases, the Home Office’s actions have serious consequences for an individual’s health and wellbeing.
Last week I visited Bhavani, a young Indian woman who has lived, studied and worked in the UK since 2010. Bhavani has Crohn’s disease and last year she underwent six surgeries in a single month. The surgeries left her so weak she was in a coma for a week and a half and during that time she received a letter from the Home Office threatening her with deportation.
Bhavani’s fiancé Martin appealed the decision immediately and her doctors provided evidence that her life would be at risk if she were to travel. She will also be dependent on medication for the rest of her life which may not be available in India.
Two months later the appeal was refused. Although the Home Office admitted Bhavani was “unlikely” to be able to receive the same standard of treatment in India, it ruled that this did not entitle her to remain in the UK. It even went as far as to state that she could receive “palliative care” in her home country if the necessary treatment was not available.
She has since been granted 12 months’ leave to remain as she is awaiting further surgery in August. However, based on past experiences she could easily be in hospital until near the end of the year; she will then only have until May 2020 to recover before having to leave.
I raised Bhavani’s case in the Commons on May 16th and have made repeated representations to the Home Secretary. I don’t know whether I will be able to persuade him to overturn this inhumane decision, but I will keep trying for the sake of Bhavani and others like her.
If you would like to add your name to Bhavani’s petition, you can do so here: https://www.change.org/p/home-office-sajidjavid-grant-bhavani-esapathi-a-visa-so-she-can-live-letbhavanilive