‘I’m sentenced to die alone’: Torture victim forced to watch his son grow up on Skype due to UK immigration policy

David Lordkipanidze is a British citizen but is unable to bring his family from Georgia

May Bulman
Saturday 22 July 2017 22:05
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Torture victim speaks out of agony of being separated from family

A man who fled torture in his home country 17 years ago has spoken out about the pain of not being able to witness his son grow up due to UK immigration policy.

“It’s very difficult to see your son grow up on Skype,” David Lordkipanidze told The Independent. “Psychologically, I am arrested... It’s like the Government has sentenced me to die alone without family in a different country.”

The 60-year-old former artist fled Georgia for the UK in 2000 after his political activism against the government landed him in trouble with the authorities.

Along with his wife Irine, he applied for asylum in Britain. Two-years later the couple had a son, George, only for their application to be refused in 2005.

It forced the family into a gut wrenching decision.

Unable to return without risking his own life, David stayed in Britain to appeal the decision, but his wife and son returned to Georgia in the hope that they would soon be able to join him.

Five years later, David was granted indefinite leave to remain and shortly afterwards he was granted British citizenship.

But to his surprise, his wife and son were unable to join him.

A Minimum Income Requirement introduced by the coalition government in 2012 means a UK citizen must earn more than £18,600 before they can sponsor a non-European spouse or partner to join them.

David, who worked as an artist in Georgia but has struggled to find steady and well-paid work in the UK.

As a result, he said he has been forced to watch George, now 13, grow up via the Skype internet messaging and webcam service.

The 60-year-old has seen his wife and child just three times since they parted with him in 2005, when he has been on short visits to Georgia on his British passport.

“With a British passport to stay as a tourist for a short time is okay, but to stay there longer wouldn't be safe,” he said. “I can’t describe how I feel when I see them. It’s so good, but when you leave it’s so bad. It’s so difficult for me not to be with them.

“I speak to my son every day. He's going to school. He’s in a painting exhibition, like his dad. I'm always giving him advice. He's starting to be a teenager now.”

With indefinite leave to remain, David was allowed to work and he did take up jobs as a caretaker, a concierge and kitchen worker.

But for the past few years he has struggled to find work. His age makes it more difficult, he said, adding that he is beginning to lose hope that he will ever be reunited with his wife and child.

“Sometimes my family argues with me, saying they aren’t happy that I’m not doing very well, that I’m not finding a job, that I’m not helping them," he said.

“But it’s very hard to find a job here. I go to the job centre all the time. I volunteer all the time. But I’m 60. If I couldn't find a Job 10 years ago, how will I now?

He added: “If I could go back to Georgia I would have been back a long time ago. And unfortunately it’s not only me in this situation. There are a lot of people, so many people. With families across the continent. I’m a British citizen, but you need to have money."

A Supreme Court ruling in February upheld the Government policy to deny foreign spouses visas on the basis of income, ruling against a case brought by campaigners against the policy.

But judges admitted it would continue to cause “significant hardship” for thousands of couples.

Forty-one per cent of British citizens do not meet the threshold. In 2015, it was estimated that at least 15,000 children had faced separation from a parent as a result of it.

Now, five years on from its introduction and with Brexit underway, critics argue the policy must change in order to stop “tearing families apart”.

Nazek Ramadan, director of Migrant Voice, a charity which supports David, told The Independent: “The spousal visa cap uses your wealth to decide whether you have the right to fall in love and have a normal family life.

“We’ve spoken to all kinds of people – from refugees fleeing war to British workers to European or American professionals – who are unable to see their partners or children.

“With our immigration system due to be rewritten as the Brexit process continues, it’s time for both common sense and compassion. Our policy should help families to thrive and flourish, not tear them apart.”

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