Britain denies girl entry to see her father

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The Independent Online
THE FOREIGN Office is refusing to allow a two-year-old British girl to come to this country to see her father for the first time because he is a prison inmate.

Selina Haagenson, who will be three in July, was born in the Philippines, shortly after her father, Paul, a Yorkshire businessman, was arrested and jailed in Britain. Her family say that although the girl has British citizenship, Foreign Office staff are refusing to give her Filipina mother a British visa on the basis that the woman would not be living with her husband and might try to claim state benefits.

The treatment, which has important implications for the rights of prisoners, has shocked Selina's grandparents, who have signed an affidavit to take full responsibility for their granddaughter and 34-year-old daughter-in-law, Rosalie, until Haagenson's release.

Haagenson's mother, Frieda, said immigration officials had been allowed to examine the family's finances. She said there was a self-contained apartment within her Blackpool home where she wished her daughter-in-law to stay.

"Rosalie is a lovely, well- educated girl and was absolutely heartbroken when Paul was arrested," Mrs Haagenson, 73, said. "I have spoken to her many times on the telephone and Selina is now asking where her daddy is and pointing to his photograph."

The decision to refuse the visa application was taken at the British embassy in Manila. In a letter, the embassy's entry clearance officer stated: "I am not satisfied that each of the parties intend to live permanently with each other as husband and wife.

"Furthermore, I am not satisfied that there will be adequate accommodation for you and your spouse without recourse to public funds in accommodation which you and your spouse own or occupy exclusively." He adds that he does not believe the couple will in future be able to maintain themselves without access to public funds.

But in a letter from Wymott prison in Lancashire, where he is serving a 10-year sentence for smuggling cannabis, Haagenson, 46, accused the Foreign Office of basing its decision "on the level of a fortune-teller with a crystal ball".

His family said he still owns a house in North Yorkshire, where he intends to rebuild his former business, selling traditional stoves and cookers.

His wife, who has had five applications for visas rejected, said: "I feel our treatment is inhumane and not that of a civilised country."

Paul Cavadino, policy director of the National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders, said family contact through prison visits played a crucial part in preventing prisoners reoffending.

"This seems so short- sighted. All the evidence shows that prisoners released without family support are between two and six times more likely to offend in the first year after release."