John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘I couldn’t hold my newborn son’: the families split by visa laws

You meet a foreign partner and dream of a life together. But unless you have enough money, UK visa rules make it almost impossible

Laura Clarke is 29. She lives in Rugby, with her parents, and her 16-month-old son, Elijah. Every day she shows Elijah a picture of his father, her partner Biniyam Tesfaye. It’s the best she can do: he lives over 3,700 miles away in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “He’s missing out on his son, and his son’s missing out on him,” she says. “We show Elijah pictures, but he’s not actually seeing him, so he’s not even using the word ‘Dada’ or ‘Daddy’. The longer this goes on, the more it will affect him.”

Clarke and Tesfaye first got together when she was teaching English at a primary school in Addis Ababa; he was one of her colleagues: “We met on my first day. We were friends for about a month, and then after that, things started to develop,” she says.

It was a really happy time. But knowing I had to go back really hurt

Forty per cent of people who work in this country are too poor to marry who they want

He’s already missing one parent: it’s not fair for me to put him into childcare so he’s missing two

They’re eight hours ahead. We get 10 or 20 minutes on Skype in the morning

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