Baroness Hamwee, the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration’s Family Migration Committee yesterday led a debate on the issue in the chamber. It is time, she writes here, for the Government to review the year-old restrictions on family migration which are causing such “unfairness”
I got 10 minutes yestderday to urge the Government to review the rule on family migration introduced a year ago next week. I could have filled 10 hours with the experiences I have heard – I don’t like to call them case studies as if people’s stories are of only academic interest.
The themes of the new rules were to stop abuse, promote integration and reduce any burden on the taxpayer. Stopping abuse (sham marriages) – does that mean separating a couple who have been together for 12 years, but only she and their British-born daughter can come to the UK, and he and their foreign born son cannot?
Promoting integration – how they do so is beyond me. And reducing the burden on the taxpayer – an attractive proposition, if it didn’t mean single parents looking to the state for support which would not be needed if both parents were together to look after the children. In fact, an academic study, using government figures, suggests that the rules will cost the UK £850m over 10 years in lost economic activity.
A British sponsor of a non-EEA spouse or partner has to show an income of £18,600 (a level that getting on for half UK wage-earners could not meet), and more if there is a child. It is now in effect impossible to bring in elderly dependents.
The separation of children from a parent is particularly worrying. Early years are crucial developmentally as well as in terms of well-being. The Children’s Commissioners of the four UK nations have supported the call for a review made by the all-party inquiry which I chaired. And only this week, in another part of the legislative forest, we were discussing a clause in a government bill that the court is to presume that the involvement of a parent in the life of a child will further the child’s welfare.
The detail of the rules is worse than confusing, and the forms and evidence required are problematic. Not much other than straight salary counts, so it’s difficult if the non-Brit is the main earner, or if the Brit is self-employed with a fluctuating income. Savings can be counted in lieu – up to £62,500 may be needed – but only cash held for a period (it strikes me that anyone holding a lot of liquid cash is likely not to be handling his assets well). Third-party support doesn’t count, which is felt particularly acutely by grandparents who would like to be part of their grandchildren’s lives.
And yet, and yet… if you are able to live and work in another part of the EU with your non-EEA spouse/partner, after a few months you can both come into the UK, settle and work here.
No surprise that the rules have provoked outrage, puzzlement and anguish. British citizens and taxpayers not able to live with their families in their own country. Of course the sense of unfairness is so evident.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.