Families of Commonwealth Soldiers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:43 pm on 5th March 2019.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 7:43 pm, 5th March 2019

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his words. Absolutely—it is just the right thing to do. There is no dubiety here. He is absolutely right about the effect on people.

As I was saying, my constituent’s wife and daughter applied for naturalisation, with no decision yet. That means that despite his being a UK citizen, his wife and daughter do not have recourse to public funds and are not allowed to work, and the Home Office currently has all their identification documents. They have been waiting well over a year, and are yet another family of a Commonwealth soldier suffering at the hands of the Home Office, which insists that the case is “complex”. When I ask for a timeline for the decision, we are told that it cannot give us one, and so on.

Another case is that of Emmanuel, who is happy to be named. He wanted to bring his auntie over for a visit, but was unable to do so because she did not earn enough in Ghana, and the Home Office would not accept him paying for her visit here. He basically just wanted to see his family before he went off for a tour in Iraq in 2018. He wrote to my assistant, Callum:

“Dear Callum,

Good day and thank you very much for getting in touch.

Even though we felt abandoned in our own case, I will be more than glad for the MP to mention my case as an example and use my name if need be, so Parliament and the Home Office knows that these are real issues affecting real Commonwealth people.

I am sad to say that after two attempts, my auntie never was issued the visa. This is unacceptable, what is happening to Commonwealth citizens serving in the British army and it’s super bad for the recruitment drive!

It’s bad enough that these men and women, having signed blank cheques with their lives for this country, still pay the full cost for their naturalization to become British, and yet their loved ones cannot even visit them to keep them sane. My support for Mr Omondi in getting his daughter is massive, as it affects all of us Commonwealth people, especially when I and my partner have experienced this ill treatment. We are still devastated by what has happened to us, because I was going through postnatal depression then. Extend our thanks to Mr Drew for flying the Commonwealth flag for us in this matter.”

All these cases are simple. We have asked these people to come and do a duty for us—to put their life at risk, and to obviously involve their families, because that is a part of the job. I am asking the Minister now to take this seriously. In the case of Mr Omondi, I would like an answer. In the case of this entire situation for all Commonwealth armed services personnel, there is a big job to do to sort this out. Let us see the changes made that need to be made, and let us see those Commonwealth soldiers and armed forces personnel treated with the dignity that they deserve.