This post is about my perplexity, revulsion and ultimate horror at what is going on here. And by here I mean HERE.
I am helping my client with a routine application for an EEA residence card because he is married to an EEA national and has a right to live and work in the UK and needs a residence card as acknowledgment of these rights. I know my job well enough to tell him not to worry about anything – Kadmos will take care of the paperwork, your case is bombproof, airtight, vermin safe. Just wait for the document to be issued!
A couple of months later, the Home Office in exercise of their new statutory powers and on track for detection of sham marriages, invites our clients for an interview in Liverpool. The couple have to arrive for 10am and be available on the day right until 4pm. Lunch is not provided. This is a routine check on genuineness of marriage. There is nothing to worry about.
We advise our client that although extremely annoying, this invitation is indeed a routine interview. They do not need to spend money on lawyers attending with them – there is no reason whatsoever to doubt validity of their marriage. The Home Office will see it as soon as they see you arrive!
I could feel my clients were not persuaded. They timidly asked: “how do we prepare for the interview?” My attempts to convince them that there was no need to prepare were in vain. So I tried to recall questions one would come across in interviews of this type: what colour dinner plates do you have at home? What time did your wife come home last night? Where do you keep … I was hoping they would be reassured and would not lose their sleep over the preparation.
The interview was somewhat unceremoniously brought back when in the early hours of the morning my clients were woken up by a group of visitors – knock, knock, knock, immigration police: just checking if both of you live at the same address
Our clients tell us that the officers did not to carry IDs, did not bother to introduce themselves, did not to take notes and did not apologise for coming during unsocial hours or indeed uninvited. They merely expressed surprise at seeing the couple together and grimly demanded their mobile phones to check if “personal” text messages had been exchanged. Satisfied with the messages, the police left. Our clients stayed, still in their nightwear, hands shaking, knees wobbly.
In the morning proper they call me. “How do you know they were the police if they didn’t introduce themselves?” – I ask, a lawyer at heart. “They wore the uniform.” Still thinking “it must have been a practical joke” I promise them to write a letter of complaint. I confess I expected (or was it just hoped?) the Home Office would respond by saying they know nothing about it, or would at least apologise for the notoriously obnoxious Capita. (For those who are lucky not to know the name I will explain that it is a private company subcontracted by the Home Office to perform all sorts of government duties which it does with the rapacity and impunity well worthy of a proper government agency.) So there you go.
On the big day the interviewing officer calmly confirms that the raid was indeed by the immigration police and that according to their report my client and his wife came out to meet them from different bedrooms. Indeed they were wearing pyjamas, but had they been sleeping together? The interviewing officer again demanded the mobile phone to check for “personal” text messages. When my client whispered that this check had already been done, the officer calmly took the phone out of his hands and performed her own inspection. “She confirmed that we did exchange personal messages! She did say so!!! And I saw her making a note of this!” screams my client in the telephone the next morning. “Do you think they will let us be now?”
And I am like “oh, boy… well … now… I really don’t know …”
Do I feel the familiar breath of the Soviet era? Has the foul beast migrated to Europe? What the hell is going on?