English language tests for UK Partner Visas may be challenged in the High Court.
29 September 2010
English language test for UK Partner Visas may ‘breach human rights’
Leading human rights lawyers say the Home Office plans to introduce an English language test for those coming to Britain to marry UK citizens could breach human rights and race relations laws.
The decision to impose the test for those applying for a UK Partner Visa from November has more to do with reducing the number of immigrants to Britain than minimising abuse, a legal opinion by Rabinder Singh QC and Aileen McColgan, of Matrix Chambers said.
The introduction of pre-entry tests amounts to a breach of the right to family life under human rights laws, the lawyers argue, and are likely to be discriminatory towards those coming from non-English-speaking countries compared with those who cannot speak English but come from the US or other majority English-speaking countries, for example, requiring someone with a degree in English from India to take the test but not someone from California who speaks only Spanish.
The Matrix legal opinion was commissioned by the human rights group Liberty.
The tests are expected to affect more that 25,000 spouses a year, and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti warned that the opinion would form the basis of a high court challenge if the changes are implemented in November.
"We have warned that pre-entry English tests are discriminatory and unlawful – a view now endorsed by one of the foremost barristers in the country," said Chakrabarti.
"If the government persists with this half-baked, pre-election, Border Agency policy, it will face embarrassing litigation unworthy of a coalition built on fundamental freedoms. If necessary, we will be the first in line to prevent genuine families being broken up."
The tests apply only to those who come from non-English-speaking countries. The top five nationalities coming to the UK to marry are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, US, and Thailand.