24 September 2009

Criminal Love

Baroness Scotland's "illegal" immigrant cleaner Loloahi Tapui and her British husband Alexander Zivancevic have unsurprisingly been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences. Baroness Scotland has been hoisted by her own petard; excellent karma. But I have a great deal of sympathy for Loloahi and Alexander.

The Daily Mail uncovered details of the couple's background last week. In summary, Loloahi arrived in the UK on a student visa, remained in the UK after it had expired, managed to marry in a C of E church, gained a marriage certificate and therefore could appear to be a British citizen and gain employment.

Put yourself in the shoes of Loloahi. She (completely legally) spent a year in the UK. During that time she would have been an active member of society. She met loads of new people, become friends with some, and entered a relationship and fell in love with one of her acquaintances. Similarly, Alexander also met and fell in love with her. Completely normal behaviour, and surely a very positive thing to happen in their lives.

The year passes by and her visa expires. We don't know if she attempted to renew her visa and failed, or if she suspected that trying to extend her right to remain in the UK would be futile. But she wanted to stay with the man she loved.

Yes, I know, it sounds like the plot of a corny love story. But in stories where a couple's love overcomes the forces that are pulling them apart, we always root for love; it is part of being human. So we should all be rooting for Loloahi and Alexander.

This case is certainly not a one-off. A friend of mine has needed to jump through hoops in order to keep his foreign-born girlfriend (now his wife) in the country. It has cost them thousands of pounds, countless hours of bureaucracy, being questioned as if they were suspects of a crime, and they've needed to bend a few rules. But I know they don't regret it for a second as it meant being able to stay together. They were lucky that they could manage to keep together without breaking any laws, but those who aren't so lucky won't give up and will break the law. As Meatloaf sang, "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that". Perhaps 'that' means not flouting a country's immigration laws... although it does seem trivial compared to running to hell and back.

'Tough' clamp-downs on immigrants are meant to benefit British citizens. But not only do deportations have a terrible impact on the migrant's life, it also means tearing apart relationships formed with British people.

So looking back at Loloahi. She has hurt no-one. She was working and wasn't costing the taxpayer a penny. She has brought love to a British citizen. Why would anyone want to see her deported? I have no idea.

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