10 June 2013

Cross-party group calls for UK immigration rules review

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A cross party group of politicians has called for a review of UK immigration rules after hearing hundreds of cases of British families forced to live apart or under fear of separation after new rules introduced last year.

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The all-party group has called for the Government to conduct a review of current UK immigration policy.

The coalition Government last year introduced a minimum earnings threshold for British citizens wishing to bring non-EU partners to the UK. The move is part of the Government's attempts to bring net migration to the UK down to fewer than 100,000 a year but critics of the move claim the £18,600 a year salary threshold is too high for the majority of applicants to meet.

Critics have labelled the system two-tiered, in that those with enough money can move to the UK while those who cannot meet the requirements have little option but to abandon plans of living in Britain.

However, the all-parliamentary group received 175 submissions from families affected by the rule change and includes cases across a wide spectrum of circumstances including a millionaire Australian who cannot live with his British wife as she is not employed and an entrepreneur who cannot bring her Japanese husband to the UK as her main sources of income (investments) cannot contribute towards her threshold.

The group published their report today and almost unanimously agreed that the current policy needs revisiting.

"During the course of the inquiry we heard from many families in which British children are being made to grow up away from a parent, or where families had been forced to move overseas in order to be together," said Sarah Teather, a member of the group and the former Liberal Democrat children's minister.

"Whatever the objective of the policy, children shouldn't suffer as a result. Now is the time to take another look at the policy."

Ms Teather's sentiments were echoed by Labour MP Virendra Sharma, who was born in India:

"The Government has set the bar for family migration too high, in pursuit of lower net migration levels. These new rules are keeping hard-working, ordinary families apart. I, and others like me, would not have been able to come to the UK to join my family if these rules had been in place then," he said.

"Today we are calling on the Government to think again."

The group's report was welcomed by immigrants' rights groups: Ruth Grove-White, policy director at the Migrants' Rights Network said "this now shows just how damaging the rules are to families.

"Being able to start a family in your own country should not be subject to the amount of money you make."

A spokesperson for the Home Office defended the rules change:

"Our family rules have been designed to make sure that those coming to the UK to join their spouse or partner will not become a burden on the taxpayer and will be well enough supported to integrate effectively," said the spokesperson.

"High-value migrants would not be refused because their British spouse or partner was not employed."

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