I am a bit of a swot, but I do actually know my husband’s NiNo, but that’s because, for many years, the form-filling in our house has been my job, not least because his writing would make most doctors look like great calligraphers. Similarly, I am fairly well acquainted with his clothing and its size because I do most of the washing.
Why, I can hear you asking, is this even relevant? Well, the Daily Mirror covered Alistair Carmichael’s reaction to a particular paragraph in Stephen Shaw’s review into the treatment of vulnerable people in immigration detention.
Shaw visited Dungavel House, in Scotland, where he was told by detainees of some of the ridiculous questions they were asked (page 52, paragraph 3.71) in order to prove that their marriages were genuine:
The questions they said they had been asked by caseworkers to ascertain whether their marriage was a sham included their knowledge of their wife’s National Insurance number, the colour of her underwear, and her bra size. If this was indeed the case, it is questionable whether such questions were either appropriate or useful.
Of course, the Mirror used this as an excuse to print a photo of women in underwear. That’s so 20th century.
Our Home Affairs spokesperson’s response was vintage Alistair:
The Government must build on the work the Liberal Democrats did in Coalition to crack down on sham marriages.
But if their idea of doing this is going around asking potential suspects if they know their wife’s bra size or what colour underwear she wears then I suspect that they’ll end up catching very few people trying to play the system and just a lot of bewildered men who haven’t the faintest.
I have been in a genuine marriage for over 28 years and would not know the answer to these questions.
I remember the look of horror on my cousin’s husband’s face when my cousin asked him, for devilment, to describe her wedding dress. This wasn’t actually that long after their wedding, and there are photos of the day all around their house. He managed to mumble something about it being white (it was actually ivory, but never mind), but that was about it. It was a fairly excruciating few minutes until he realised that she was actually joking. It’s quite instructive to know that these details aren’t taken in by everybody. It’s absolutely appalling that they are being used by our immigration services as determiners of whether a marriage is genuine.
There are many reasons to be utterly ashamed of the way we treat people who want to live here for the most understandable of reasons. The immigration system is simply not fair and causes much misery. More needs to be said about the reality of the situation, which is that families are being split up and people are not treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve as human beings.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings