LAUNCH OF THE APPG MIGRATION INQUIRY REPORT draws attention to the plight of divided families

Ruth_webThe APPG on Migration inquiry into family migration has launched its final report today – this will be an important piece of evidence for campaigners who want to see a change in these rules.

Migrants Rights Network Policy Director, Ruth Grove-White writes:

Today the spotlight is firmly on the new family migration rules brought in last year, with the release of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration report into the emerging impacts of the rules.

Over the past six months an ad hoc Committee of MPs and peers from across the political parties, working through the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, has been looking into the emerging impacts of new family migration rules since their introduction in July 2012. In particular, they looked at the impacts of the new minimum income requirement to sponsor a non-EEA spouse or partner, and the tough new rules affecting adult dependents. For many people who have been affected by the new rules (almost 6,000 fewer entry clearance visas were issued in the year ending March 2013) this has been a useful opportunity to highlight their devastating impacts and strengthen the support for a new approach.

The inquiry, headed by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs lead Baroness Hamwee, received nearly 300 submissions – over half from families affected by the rules as well as many submissions from charities, businesses, lawyers and MPs. After reviewing the submissions, and following two oral evidence sessions in Parliament, the key findings of the report included the following:

  • The level of the income requirement has prevented many British citizens and permanent residents from sponsoring a non-EEA partner from coming to the UK since July 2012. This has affected a wide range of people, including full-time workers earning above the national minimum wage across the UK, including in healthcare, service and clerical occupations. The regional disparity in earnings means that those based outside London and the South East have been at a particular disadvantage, as are women, young and elderly couples and some ethnic minorities;
  • The introduction of the income requirement, and the restrictive list of sources permitted in order to meet it, have prevented some British people living with their families overseas from returning to the UK as a family – some families were in limbo as they were unable to return to the UK;
  • Children, including British children, have been affected by the rules. In some cases, the non-EEA parent could not join them in the UK, leaving the children without a parent indefinitely, whereas in others, the British children were stranded overseas with their parents;
  • The current income and saving sources does not fully reflect the real resources available to some families. In particular, the fact that neither non-EEA partner earnings (in entry clearance applications) or third party support can be drawn upon in applications, means that applications often cannot reflect the support that is really available to families;
  • In addition, the inquiry reported on the virtual closure of the elderly dependent route, reporting both that the financial support requirement is virtually impossible for applicants to meet, as well as having an overly restrictive care requirement.

The report calls for a full review of both policies, in order to reconsider how far the balance has been struck between different, competing interests in this area. It also points to key aspects where changes might be made, including:

  • Reviewing the level of the income requirement, to minimise the impacts on UK sponsors on grounds of gender, age, ethnicity or regional location;
  • Assessing the way that children’s best interests are considered in non-EEA partner applications;
  • Reviewing the permitted sources to meet the income requirement, and in particular considering whether the current rules on non-EEA partner earnings, third party support, cash savings and income from self-employment really reflect the resources available to families;
  • Reviewing the rules affecting adult elderly dependents.

The next steps

Today’s launch of the inquiry report offers up an important opportunity to highlight the costs of this policy, but over the next few weeks there will be much more work to do, more evidence to gather and wider arguments to make. As campaigners we must build on the attention that this report will help to bring to the issue, to arm those that we know object to these policies from across the political parties with the arguments that they will need in order to champion a different approach.

Over the coming weeks we are hoping that MPs and peers will have the chance to debate the family migration rules, using both the report and all the other available evidence about the damage caused by the family migration – we will share all information about that as it emerges, and let you know how and when it might be most effective to feed into pre-debate briefings and/or lobby your MP.

But for now, here are two things you can do:

1. Sign the letter of support on the MRN website.

2. Put the 9th July in your diary. This, the one year anniversary of the new rules, is a Divided Families day of action, demonstration and lobbying at the Home Office and Parliament, organised by BritCits, JCWI, the Family Immigration Alliance and others. It will be a must-attend for those keen to campaign on this issue.
Yana, John and twins
Yana and John (above), a couple based in Scotland, presented their case to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament before the APPG Migration Inquiry. Click for here for their story
Our full portfolio of cases presented at the Scottish Parliament before the APPG Migration Inquiry are here.
Ruth Grove-white’s blog first appeared on MRN’s website here.