Standing for change for all our families

Paige Ballmi tells TCP why planting a family tree holds so much significance for her, and many others

Paige (centre) with David Lammy MP, local councillors and residents Credit: Tom Ferrie

By Paige Ballmi, Reunite Families UK

When a tree is planted, it puts down roots in its new home. It gives life to its new surroundings and can flourish and grow.”

Cross-border families are often unable to do this, because current visa policies like the Minimum Income Requirement (MIR) prevent them from doing so.

Since 2012, immigration rules brought in by former Prime Minster, Theresa May have demanded that British citizens must earn at least £18,600 a year if they want to establish a life here with a partner from outside Europe.

This is a policy that tears low-income families apart, forcing parents to live away from their British children for years, often on different continents, and trying to raise their kids over a dodgy Skype connection.

Last month, I planted a ‘Family Tree’ to raise awareness about these damaging rules and make our voices heard by those who have the power to change this discriminatory policy: MPs.

This event enabled families who have been affected to come together, share their experiences and support one another.

The more people that know about the MIR policy and understand how it discriminates against huge parts of our community – including women, people from a BME background, those with disabilities and the elderly – the stronger we are. Together, we will get our voices heard and put an end to the price on love.

In 2017, my husband’s visa was incorrectly refused on the basis that I did not meet the minimum income requirement. Although the decision by UK Visas and Immigration was completely wrong, the refusal pushed me to a dark place, almost ending my life.

Becoming a part of the campaign group Reunite Families, and realising I was not the only person in this situation, gave me the inspiration and motivation I needed to be able to fight for the rights of cross-border families. I never want anyone to feel the way I did.

It is important that we do what we can for things to change and for that change to be sustainable, as so manylives depend on it, including mine.

Words will never explain how important it was for me to hold the Family Tree event in Tottenham. I spent most of the time that I was separated from my husband, suffering because of the Home Office’s refusal, at my workplace in Tottenham.

As I was going through it, I realised that anyone in Tottenham could be affected in similar ways. So, what better way to campaign for change than to plant a tree here, and bring new life into the world?

I hope that people in Tottenham who’ve been negatively affected by these rules and anyone who supports the rights of families to be together, no matter what, will come forward and join our fight.

You can be part of the fight for justice by writing to your local MP to get them to pledge to scrap the MIR – the price on love that splits up cross-border families based on their income.