Drew Hendry MP: The tale of a Prime Minister, two Cabinet Secretaries, and a serving soldier’s heartbroken family – will common decency prevail?
As a serving soldier in 3 Scots stationed at Fort George, he has loyally served, becoming a British citizen, undertaking tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cyprus. So why is the Home Office denying him reunification with his daughter? Drew Hendry MP writes.
Behind every hostile environment statistic there is a personal story – real lives shattered because of a Government unwelcoming and unrelenting in its dogmatic approach to immigration.
Sadly, this includes up to 6000 men and women from foreign and Commonwealth countries currently serving in the British Armed Forces.
Under current immigration rules serving soldiers from the commonwealth with a spouse and children can end up waiting years before they earn enough to have their family come live with them. What’s more a great many of them did not realise this fact before they signed up to the British Army - leaving a legacy of separated families, with serving soldiers even having to take on second jobs to meet the minimum earnings threshold which is thousands of pounds higher than the starting salary for a service personnel.
That is why I am calling on the UK Government to amend existing immigration rules on the Minimum Income Threshold to exempt families of serving Armed Forces personnel.
Unfortunately, the battle with the Home Office doesn’t end there.
My constituent Dennis Omondi, is a serving soldier in the British Army, who in 2011 found out he was a father to a little girl in Kenya. Previously unaware of his daughter’s existence, Denis sprang into action to meet his daughter and visit her as often as he could. There was an instant connection between them - they are dad and daughter.
So when his daughter’s birth mother decided she could no longer look after her, Denis became Anne’s sole custodian. He pays for her education and living costs in Kenya and is proudly responsible for her care and wellbeing.
Understandably, he takes his role as her dad very seriously.
Denis also takes his job seriously.
As a serving soldier in 3 Scots stationed at Fort George, he has loyally served, becoming a British citizen, undertaking tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cyprus. Despite the demands of his work, he has used every opportunity to visit and spend time with Anne in Kenya.
With his wife battling cancer and as a dad missing his daughter, Denis set about applying for a visa to bring her to live with them in the Highlands. To Denis, it was the most natural thing in the world – to finally all be together.
So, imagine his heartache when he opened the letter from the Home Office telling him Anne’s visa was rejected. And the reason? They considered he had not spent enough time with her to prove their relationship.
This, despite him providing evidence of all his visits, photos, his calls with Anne, correspondence with her teachers, care providers and much more in between.
Denis and his wife were in disbelief at the news and Anne absolutely devastated to be kept apart from her family.
Hearing about their plight, I pleaded with the Prime Minister to right the wrong. She promised that the Home Secretary would investigate personally, and he nodded beside her signally his acquiescence.
Surely common sense and common decency would prevail?
Not the case. Since then the anxiety, cost and pressure has built up for the Omondi family. A promise to look again eventually came but only after relentless chasing. Confusion and chaos at the Home Office then meant I had to then raise their case again, this time with the Scottish Secretary.
Here we are a Prime Minister, two Cabinet Secretaries, a heartbroken family and still no answer on whether to reunite their serving soldier with his only daughter.
'Your Army needs you’ is the recruitment call out. The website details many benefits of joining, including promises of 'Child and Adult Safeguarding and support for 'Emotional Well Being'. All sanctioned and promoted by the Ministry of Defence.
Promises that will seem pretty hollow if the UK Government fail to do the right thing by someone they called to serve for them.
PoliticsHome Member, Veterans Aid, have responded to Drew Hendry MP, saying "Mr Omondi’s story is, it is just one of hundreds of similar cases that Veterans Aid has encountered over the year" Read the full response here.