“This Approach Puts a Price on Love”
On 25 September 2012, at a well attended public meeting organised by SYMAAG, the following resolution was passed unanimously:
‘This meeting deplores the Home Office’s new family migration rules which came into force on 9 July 2012. We believe that these rules will prevent many thousands of people from exercising their right to a family life in the UK. The rules discriminate against people on low incomes and as a result will have a disproportionate impact on areas like South Yorkshire where wages are relatively low. We call upon the Home Secretary to abandon these unfair and divisive rules.’
Among the many restrictions imposed by these regulations is a new income requirement of £18,600 for people wishing to sponsor a partner or spouse to come to the UK and an additional £2,400 for each child. People who attended the meeting pointed out how discriminatory these provisions were in relation to the incomes received by many people in South Yorkshire.
“A Qualified Right”
It was also noted with surprise that the House of Commons apparently did not query these new regulations and instead on 19 June approved the following motion which was proposed by Theresa May:
‘That this House supports the Government in recognising that the right to respect for family or private life in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights is a qualified right and agrees that the conditions for migrants to enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family or private life should be those contained in the Immigration Rules.’
SYMAAG subsequently wrote to all Sheffield MPs expressing its strong concern about these new rules and expressing astonishment at the apparent claim in Theresa May’s motion that immigration rules like those set out above do not cut across people’s right to family life. SYMAAG raised the issue at a meeting with Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister on 16/11/12: see a report of the meeting here.
Sheffield City Council Opposes Family Migration Rule Changes
Sheffield’s Councillor Mahommed Marouf, who attended the SYMAAG meeting, subsequently submitted a motion to Sheffield City Council about these new rules and this was approved by the Council on 7 November 2012. The motion declared among other things that the new rules will ‘ be hugely detrimental to the multicultural vitality of Sheffield and the UK, and believes that changes to the minimum income threshold, right of appeal and student immigration would cause damage to the culture and economy of our City’.
Since SYMAAG’s meeting in September the campaign against the rule changes has grown. The Independent newspaper recently reported the rule changes and resistance to them, including some personal and emotional testimonies about the effects of the changes (see, for example the comment from Andy Russell after the article).
As a result of concerns about the effects of the rule changes, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration has begun an inquiry and is inviting evidence. You can have your say by contacting the inquiry via the APPG Migration website or send evidence direct to them at firstname.lastname@example.org (the deadline for submissions is 31/1/13). For more information see the Migrant Rights Network website.
Report from SYMAAG’s meeting on 25/9/12 about Family Migration Rule Changes
The first speaker was Juan Camilo Cook, Advocacy Support Officer of the Migrant Rights Network (MRN). He said that the new family migration rules were a consequence of the Conservative Party’s election promise to bring down net migration to 250,000. 47% of the UK population had incomes below that now required in order to bring a spouse into the country. The proportion was even more inYorkshire. It was not generally recognised that the new rules would affect long standing UK citizens who wished to bring in a foreign spouse. Ethnic minority communities needed to consider the implications of these rules for their own community’s welfare. In July MRN had organised large demonstrations against the new rules outside the Home Office and outside Parliament, but awareness was limited and there was a need for active campaigning, particularly to MPs. MRN provided the secretariat to the All Party Group on Migration and there was a proposal for an enquiry into the impact of these rules.
The second speaker was Saleh Alnoud, a solicitor and part of the local Yemeni community. He pointed out that Yemenis had originally been encouraged to come to Sheffield to work in the local steel industry. The situation in Yemen was now highly unstable and it would be very difficult forSheffield based Yemenis to settle there. Since 2007, the UK embassy in Yemen had closed. The country lacked facilities for language tests. He regarded the new rules as draconian and urged the Yemeni community to campaign on these issues.
The third speaker was Gwyneth Lonergan, a researcher and member of SYMAAG Executive. She acknowledged that there was a separate process for family reunion for people with refugee status – but only as long as they have refugee status. Once they have citizenship, former refugees must follow the same procedure as everyone else. Moreover, there remained issues around the weakening of the right to family life and the potential deportation of people who have served over 12 months in prison. Also, asylum-seekers who are parents of British children (or children who have been in the UK so long that they are automatically allowed to stay) do not necessarily get to stay in the UK, so families can be divided. There have been stories of the government targeting families with children who have been in Britain almost 7 years for deportation.
What’s Changed? UKBA’s announcement of 9 July 2012 on family migration rules
A number of changes to the Immigration Rules come into effect on 9 July 2012. These changes will affect non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) nationals applying to enter or remain in the UK under the family migration route.
These changes will define the basis on which a person can enter or remain in the UK on the basis of their family or private life, unifying consideration under the rules and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
If you already have leave to enter or remain in the UK, on the basis of being the spouse or partner of a settled person, you will need to meet the rules which were in force before 9 July 2012 if you apply for settlement.
The changes include:
- introducing a new minimum income threshold of £18,600 for sponsoring the settlement in the UK of a spouse or partner, or fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner of non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationality, with a higher threshold for any children also sponsored; £22,400 for one child and an additional £2,400 for each further child;
- publishing, in casework guidance, a list of factors associated with genuine and non-genuine relationships, to help UK Border Agency caseworkers to focus on these issues;
- extending the minimum probationary period for settlement for non-EEA spouses and partners from two years to five years, to test the genuineness of the relationship;
- abolishing immediate settlement for the migrant spouses and partner where a couple have been living together overseas for at least 4 years, and requiring them to complete a 5 year probationary period;
- from October 2013, requiring all applicants for settlement to pass the Life in the UK Test and present an English language speaking and listening qualification at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages unless they are exempt; and
- allowing adult and elderly dependants to settle in the UK only where they can demonstrate that, as a result of age, illness or disability, they require a level of long-term personal care that can only be provided by a relative in the UK, and requiring them to apply from overseas rather than switch in the UK from another category, for example as a visitor.
The changes to the Immigration Rules were announced by the Government on 11 June 2012 and they form part of the Government’s programme of reform of the immigration routes. The changes are being introduced following wide consultation and expert advice from the Migration Advisory Committee.
For more information about the new family migration rules, please also see http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2012/06/family-migration-new-rules-announced
See also BritCits, a website dedicated to the rights of international families http://www.britcits.com/