A grandmother whose entire family is settled in the UK has been told she must leave the country.
Susita Balasubranamiamm, 63, has been ordered to return to Sri Lanka, leaving behind all her children and grandchildren because the Home Office says her 71-year-old husband, who recently retired, no longer meets the required income threshold.
Her husband, Shanmugham, was granted refugee status by the Home Office in 1994 after fleeing persecution for being part of the Tamil ethnic group. Their four children joined him in the years that followed and were also given refugee status. Ms Balasubranamiamm joined them in 2014 on a spouse visa.
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The elderly couple has since been living with their 35-year-old son and his family, contributing to the household by preparing meals and caring for their grandchildren as is tradition in Tamil culture.
But when she applied to renew her visa in 2016, the Home Office refused it on the grounds that Mr Balasubranamiamm, who previously worked as a food factory manager, no longer earned enough because he had retired.
Speaking to The Independent, Ms Balasubranamiamm, who has health problems, said: “I am not well. I feel I can’t go back. My whole family is here – my husband, children, and grandchildren. No one is there. I won’t have anyone there to take care of me there.
“I feel comfortable here. My whole family is here and it’s secure. I love spending time with my grandchildren. I was very relieved to come here. Now I’m feeling very anxious.”
The Home Office said the couple would not face “very significant difficulties” continuing their family life together outside the UK in Sri Lanka, and that any infringement of their right to family life “would be justified and proportionate in the pursuit of maintaining effective immigration control”.
The department said in the refusal letter that were Ms Balasubranamiamm claiming welfare benefits, she may be exempt from meeting the requirement.
The couple’s son, Mohanathas Balasubramaniam, 35, who is hosting his parents, said: “If she is sent back, she would be living on her own. No one would be looking after her. I’m settled here. I can’t always travel to Sri Lanka to look after my mum.
“They are staying in my home and would remain here. They aren’t claiming any benefits. I would continue to look after them. I worry about them going to Sri Lanka with no family around when they are growing older.”
Naga Kandiah, the family’s solicitor, said: “This is a sad case which shows the harsh realities of an inflexible immigration system. In a case such as this where the applicant is not a burden on the state, families should be able to stay together.
“If immigration rules continue to be implemented in such a restrictive and indiscriminate way, then we will continue to see cases where elderly relatives are separated from their loved ones.”
Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: “No family should be forced apart. Yet a grandmother is being forced out of her home and sent halfway around the world from her family simply because her husband has retired.
“We are told that we have to blame people born elsewhere for everything that’s wrong in our society, but can anybody tell me whose life gets better when we do this to people?”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We don’t routinely comment on individual cases nor would it be appropriate to comment while there are ongoing legal proceedings.”