THE Home Office continues to display as little compassion as it does common sense when it comes to picking easy targets for deportation.
Even though the government wants to be seen to be doing something to reduce net migration, it has always maintained that it “welcomes” highly skilled overseas workers who make a significant contribution to the UK. The van Niekerk family, who came to the UK from South Africa in 2008, have certainly done that.
Benita van Niekerk came under the “Tier 1” points system to take a job as a senior systems analyst. Her husband Eugene is an educational psychologist, and their three children, aged 15 to 19 at the time, were then all still in education. Both parents paid higher-rate income tax and spent more than £160,000 on their children’s education; and in 2013 they were given indefinite leave to remain in the UK – all except their eldest daughter, Nicole.
Because she was over 18, the family had been advised (wrongly, it seems) that instead of coming in as a “dependant” under the highly skilled worker system, she should apply in her own right for a student visa to take up a place to study drama at the University of Essex – even though she was (and still is) “dependent” on her family.
In 2013, extensions to her visa were refused, meaning she could no longer study for a master’s degree or take up work offers; and in June 2014 she was sent a deportation order. Her application to the Home Office for leave to remain on the grounds of her right to a private and family life with her parents and siblings was turned down, even though the stress of being parted from the family was by then taking its toll on her mental health.
In January this year, pending an appeal to a tribunal, she was granted temporary leave to stay, while having to report once a month to a police station – in the words of her father “like a criminal”. This only added to her stress.
‘Worthy member of her community’
Finally, in May, an immigration tribunal ruled in her favour: the judge found that Nicole was and is, because of her health, dependent upon her family and was indeed entitled to a family life. Nicole, who volunteers at a local charity day centre in east London, providing meals and music lessons, and helps organise the local music festival, is, the tribunal judge said, “a worthy member of her community and hence enhances the cultural life of the UK”.
And Theresa May’s response? Almost unbelievably the home secretary is to appeal – and hence waste more taxpayers’ money in her determination to kick Nicole out.