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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Jacob Phillips

Mother warns of toll on children's mental health from Home Office visa rule changes

A campaigner has warned potentially thousands of children could suffer from anxiety, like her daughter has, as parents face living separately under Home Office family visa salary changes.

Reunite Families co-founder Jane Yilmaz, who supports other families impacted by visa rules, said her 13-year-old daughter Ela collapsed twice due to anxiety when the pair returned to the UK but left Ela’s father in Turkey.

A Reunite Families report, published shortly after the Home Office announced visa changes in December, found 92 per cent of parents said their child’s mental health was impacted due to separation.

Ms Yilmaz warned that percentage could increase rapidly as the new family visa minimum salary requirement, introduced by Spring 2025, requires British citizens living abroad and their foreign partners to earn at least £38,700 in order to relocate to the UK, a large increase from the existing £18,600 requirement.

Many British citizens will face returning home without their foreign partners because they do not earn enough to meet the new requirement.

Ms Yilmaz told the Standard: “A lot more families will be separated because they just won’t be able to meet the requirements.

“Single parents are trying to hold it all together and trying to explain that ‘daddy does have legs, he doesn’t live in an iPad’.

“A young child can’t understand why daddy can’t just get on a plane with you, just like all other families.”

Reunite Families has seen its membership double since the increases were announced and Ms Yilmaz said families are “extremely worried and concerned” about how they are going to meet the requirements.

She continued: “I am talking to people who are well qualified and have good jobs but they do not want to go through that separation.

“It can be six months but it can also be unending. You just never never know at what point you are going to meet those requirements.”

James Cleverly announced the visa changes in December (PA Wire)

Her warning comes a week after petitions against the family visa changes, which attracted more than 250,000 signatures, were presented to Downing Street by affected families.

Ms Yilmaz went through the visa process herself and said her daughter suffered from the anxiety of leaving her father behind in Turkey.

The 48-year-old returned to Britain when Ela, aged six at the time, could no longer go to school due to a military coup and Ms Yilmaz’s father died, in 2016.

The mother believed she would be able to find work as a teacher and that her then husband would be able to come and live with them in six months time.

But separating their family had a huge impact on Ela, who is now 13 years old.

Ms Yilmaz told the Standard: “I came back and faced all kinds of difficulties with my daughter settling into school in a new country and mental health issues she suffered with.

“She suffered with severe anxiety because she had lost her father because he couldn’t come with us.

“She also lost me to the world of work because I had been a full-time mum in Turkey but when I came here I needed to go out to work and earn the income requirement. It just became really, really difficult.”

The mother explained Ela’s anxiety became so bad she collapsed twice, once in Britain and once in Turkey.

Ms Yilmaz said: “When she collapsed in Turkey it was the day before we were due to come back from there. She knew she was leaving her dad behind at that point.”

Ms Yilmaz, Ela and campaigners from migrant rights organisations handed in petitions, with 250,000 signatures to Downing Street against the salary increase on Valentine’s Day (PA Wire)

Ms Yilmaz’ own relationship broke down after her ex-husband was unable to join the family in the UK for two years.

Once he moved he struggled to adjust to life in Britain and their marriage struggled after a long time apart.

Ms Yilmaz added: “We had been married at the time for six years. We had a pretty solid relationship in Turkey but I think after two years of separation and coming here and trying to relocate to a new country it was very difficult for my husband.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The current levels of migration to the UK are far too high. That is why the government announced a plan to cut the number of migrants coming to the UK by 300,000 a year – the largest reduction ever.

“We have a longstanding principle that anyone bringing dependants to live in the UK must be able to financially support them. The Minimum Income Requirement ensures that families are self-sufficient instead of relying on public funds, with the ability to integrate if they are to play a full part in British life.”

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