Joe Cokanasiga has urged the government to end his “betrayal” of members of the Commonwealth armed forces as his father fights for a visa to be allowed to live in the UK.
Ilaitia Cokanasiga, originally from Fiji, served in the Royal Logistic Corps of the British Army for 14 years and carried out operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he still needs to apply for a visa to stay in the UK and must now pay a fee of £ 2,389. to complete the request.
Call for the elimination of fees
Her son, England and Bath Flyer Joe, have now called for the fees to be waived and for the process to be streamlined for all families struggling with the application process.
“The main word that comes to mind is a feeling of betrayal,” said the 23-year-old, who faced England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“He represented this country for 15 years, made a lot of sacrifices.
“I was born into an army family, all we knew was to serve the British army and when he finished we were ashamed as if we had done something wrong especially for my father, there was no sense of belonging. “
Cokanasiga said he hoped the government would change its treatment of Commonwealth military personnel.
Last year there were 5,110 Commonwealth citizens serving in the armed forces and over the past five years there have been as many as 400 requests for leave to remain indefinitely by military personnel each year – 0.6% of the total granted by the United Kingdom.
Cokanasiga described how his father had to travel to Fiji in 2020 and was unable to return to the UK for a year due to immigration issues. He only returned home to Didcot, Oxfordshire, in February and is still awaiting the outcome of his visa application.
“The situation with Daddy’s visa issues has caused our family a lot of distress,” he added. “In a year where we have all been affected by the pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding his residence has been truly traumatic. “
He described how his family was assigned overseas to Germany and Brunei when he was still a child. Through his military education, he was introduced to rugby and eventually played alongside his father in community armed forces tournaments.
“I have seen with my own eyes all that Commonwealth military personnel have done for this country,” he said.
“This is why I am so determined to support the Royal British Legion (RBL) Stop the Service Charge campaign. It is totally unfair that the government is making people who have served and sacrificed in the armed forces pay for the right to stay in the UK.
RBL Policy and Research Officer Andy Pike said: “Joe’s case shows how it is not only Commonwealth veterans, but also their families who are suffering because of these rules. unfair immigration.
“These individuals and families have rendered years of loyal service to the UK, but many are in dire straits if they wish to stay here when they leave the military.
“While we welcome the news that the government must look into this issue, many veterans and their families still grapple with each passing day.
“That is why on Commonwealth Day we call on the government to release its proposals as soon as possible and take action to abolish these unfair visa application fees.
“The current situation is a bad way to say thank you to the people we have encouraged to leave their countries to serve in the British armed forces.”
Grateful for the contribution of the armed forces
A government spokesperson said: “We are extremely grateful for the contribution of all of our armed forces.
‘The Home Office and the Department of Defense are working closely with our non-UK recruits to ensure that they are fully aware of how they and their families can settle in the UK and costs involved.
“This includes working with Joining Forces Credit Union to offer financial advice, savings programs and loans to help staff pay visa fees.
“The Ministry of Defense will launch a public consultation shortly to examine how we can provide more flexibility to serving personnel in the future. “