Naked Politics Blogger
With the annual lull of Britain’s political leviathan taking place over Parliament’s summer break, the story of my friend Brian White reminds us that the human face of politics never sleeps.
Brian, an orphan born and raised in Zimbabwe up until the age of 12, was first fostered and then adopted at the age of 6 by British-born Peter White who eventually moved to the UK from Botswana when Brian was 15. On top of the fact Brian so easily integrated into our school’s community, making countless friends, last year he gained an astounding A*A*A*A in his A-Level results, gaining him a place at the unquestionably prestigious Oxford University to read Chemistry. From this point, it sounds like a dream had come true for Brian, to have conquered so much from such humble beginnings.
However, regretfully I cannot say that this is where Brian began a new chapter of his life at one of the world’s greatest institutions, because this is where Brian’s predicament raised its ugly head. Due to uncertainty of his UK residency, leading to problems surrounding Brian’s student finance, Oxford University were unable to confirm Brian’s place. Brian had rationally thought that he would be able to confirm his citizenship through naturalisation as his adoptive father is a British national and because of his personal circumstances which he made clear in his initial visa. However, Brian’s application for permanent residency was denied by the Home Office, from what sickeningly looks to have the hallmarks of a clerical error and was instead given limited leave to remain. This decision and Brian’s subsequent appeal, which was also denied at the first instance, occurred around 2014. With a fresh application being launched this year Brian is attempting to overturn this decision, however there is a serious threat that he could be deported back to Zimbabwe, a country where Brian has not visited for nearly 9 years and where he has no ties he could go back to; not a single family member or friend.
Like most of you reading this, I am both sickened and outraged that the Home Office have behaved in such a manner and are actively prohibiting someone I consider to be one of the most intelligent and hardest working people I know from realising his extraordinary potential and ultimately make an invaluable contribution to the country that has given him so much. The Home Office is again reviewing his case with the ‘urgency’ that it undoubtedly requires, with Oxford University also having reserved a place for Brian for entering his course this year. However, if the Home Office does not accept his current application, or even if they do not come to a conclusion before the semester begins, Brian is under threat of losing his deserved place at University.
It is not just me who thinks that there are serious failings on the Home Office’s part in Brian’s case, one immigration expert working on Brian’s case has commented: ‘On reviewing (Brian’s) papers it seems he should have been granted indefinite leave to enter at first instance and it is not clear why this did not happen’. From this, it is without doubt that Brian should stay and claim his place at Oxford and that he has been seriously let down by the Home Office and this country’s immigration system in general, which seems to be in a period of perpetual turmoil.
This travesty of justice has affected Brian on both an academic and a personal level. Talking to me yesterday he spoke about how the stress of these events has taken its toll, describing it as leaving a “big question mark over his head”. He has been so embroiled in this all-consuming situation that he has been unable to think about his life during and after university in the case the Home Office were to grant him permanent residency. But even in such a stressful and tumultuous period, Brian says he has been utterly humbled by the sheer number of responses to a petition that was set up in his name and the messages of support that he has received: “It’s crazy how quickly it’s gone up, I never could have expected that in my wildest dreams…when it hit 10,000 I was like ‘how is this happening? How have this many people looked at it and wanted to sign’?”. Brian’s case has not only attracted the signatures of over 75,000 signatures (and counting) in under a week, but also the attention of numerous press outlets and the support of several politicians, academics and celebrities including the former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, broadcaster Caitlin Moran, author Philip Pullman and the local MP Eleanor Smith, to name but a few.
The immigration system in our country is a mess and people like Brian are being unjustly placed in horrendous positions such as this because of it. We must act and not let Brian, and so many people like him whose potential contribution to our society is boundless, pay the price for our Government’s failures. I urge all of you reading this to sign the petition calling for Brian to remain in the UK, share the hashtag #GetBrianToOxford (and this article or indeed any other about Brian’s plight) and whatever else you can to keep this exceptional talent in this country with a UK passport. For Brian to be deported would be a failure of decency, ethics and common sense on all proportions. We must act.