Hong Kong residents are excluded from the UK safe haven offer

Hong Kong residents are excluded from the UK safe haven offer
Toward the end of last year, worried about street protests in Hong Kong and the changing face of the region in which he was born and raised, Ali moved to the UK to start a new life.

He aimed to get a job and bring his wife and child to join him.

But finding a well-paid job was more difficult than he had imagined, and the COVID-19 pandemic only made matters worse.

"I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but when I saw the jobs and wages it offered you, I thought how anyone could live here even on that kind of money," said the former crane operator, estimating his earnings at around 800 pounds ($ 1,039).

Unlike the estimated 3 million people in Hong Kong who have British overseas status (BNO) and are granted fast track to eventually obtain residency and citizenship as a result of China's imposition of the National Security Act in June, Ali is a British citizen.

He is one of around 35,000 people of South Asian ancestry who settled in Hong Kong during more than 100 years of British rule - often from countries that were also at the time colonies of the United Kingdom - but were not considered eligible for Chinese citizenship. The territory was returned to Beijing in 1997. Many of them acquired British citizenship because they would have been stateless otherwise.

But while Ali believed that being British would make it easier for him to settle in the UK, he did not think about the so-called “hostile environment” of the British government about immigration.

Since 2012, in a policy promoted as putting an end to so-called "fake" marriage, British citizens are required to get a job and earn a certain income - 18,600 pounds ($ 24,159) a year for their partner, 3,800 pounds ($ 4,937) for a child One, and £ 2,400 ($ 3,177) for each additional child - before they can bring a non-British or European spouse to live with them in the UK. Even the application fee is exorbitant - £ 1,500 ($ 1948) - and the couple is subject to an additional health fee.

Even before the pandemic broke out, about 42 percent of the British population was not earning enough to meet this threshold, according to activists.

Mary Atkinson, Families Together Campaign Officer at the Joint Council for Immigrant Welfare: “When they hear about these rules, they are astonished to learn that spouses should jump through all these hoops, even if they have children together,” in London, told Al Jazeera. "It defies common sense."

Atkinson says she has received several calls from other people in Hong Kong in Ali's position.

Order threshold

Both Ali's wife and daughter have passports from Pakistan, and since he is known as a "British citizen by descent," Ali cannot pass his nationality to his children if they are born outside the UK.

When Representative Jim Shannon of Northern Ireland asked the Home Office in July what steps it was taking to ensure that ethnic minorities from Hong Kong from UK citizens moved to Britain immediately with their non-UK families, the government's response failed. Address income requirements.

She added in a written response that "if necessary," "leave may also be considered outside the immigration rules on an exceptional basis."

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