Immigration and human rights: the Home Office’s latest controversial deportation
Alice Gregory – 5 June 2023
Youssef Mikhaiel, an Egyptian man living in Glasgow, is currently facing deportation by the Home Office. As critics of the move have pointed out, not only will this mean separation from his partner, but it also risks depriving Mikhaiel of the necessary treatment needed for a rare medical condition. Mikhaiel met his girlfriend Sarah Bradley in early 2022 through a Christian dating app but, due to their religious beliefs, the two do not live together. However, the couple had been discussing marriage, with Mikhaiel planning a proposal this summer. So, he applied to remain in the UK on humanitarian grounds but was recently arrested at an appointment at the Home Office and taken to Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre.
As it turns out, if you’re planning on applying for an unmarried partner visa in the UK, you must be able to prove that you have lived with your partner (who has citizenship or the right to live indefinitely in the UK) for at least two years. There are other requirements to meet, such as income and language abilities, but it’s more difficult to prove that your relationship is genuine. Mikhaeil and Bradley have had to ask dozens of family members and friends to write letters of support – which they explain is a humiliating ask – but this is weak evidence according to the Home Office. Although there are some exceptions to the cohabiting rule for those who work or study elsewhere, there’s no flexibility for couples who decide to live separately due to religious beliefs.
Another pressing issue is that Mikhaiel has a rare, genetic, neurological disorder called Fabry disease, which can be dangerous or life threatening if left untreated. His lawyers have sought opinions of medical experts in Egypt who say there’s no treatment available for Fabry disease in the country. Bradley has voiced concerns for Mikhaiel’s health while he’s been kept detained in Dungavel, a facility meant for short-term use while preparing a resident’s deportation (a facility that has faced controversy in the past for, among other things, keeping a family detained for more than a year). Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights refers to the right to respect for private and family life, so is often referenced in immigration-related cases. However, the ECHR also makes deporting a person suffering from an illness to their home country where they are unlikely to have access to appropriate medical treatment tricky.
Immigration has been a highly debated topic in UK law and politics recently, with the Rwanda asylum plan and Illegal Migration Bill at front and centre. What’s more, the UK government’s intentions to crack down on immigration will likely add fuel to the fire.
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