The cumulative effect of the Government’s family migration proposals will be to create a harder, longer and more precarious route for
securing both entry to, and settlement in the UK for familial purposes. This will have profound consequences for those involved in bi-national and transnational relationships – at the same time it is striking that there is scant evidence to suggest that such proposals will further the Government’s stated objectives of facilitating integration, reducing abuse of the system, and protecting public services.
In our view these proposals are likely to be positively counter-productive from the point of view of facilitation of integration. Their effect will simply be to deepen the divide between EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals in terms of the enjoyment of familial rights of reunion and residence (and indeed British nationals and EEA nationals given that British nationals will enjoy inferior entitlements to their European counter-parts). They are also likely to reinforce stratification along lines of race, gender and class.
Furthermore, the splitting up of families that can be expected to arise from these measures is likely to generate psychological distress and dependency, and the delay in accessing the welfare state will simply result in the grouping of migrants with other co-nationals in order to cope with the more demanding environment they find themselves in. As research shows, the ultimate effect of these measures will be to significantly constrain migrant choices. This is in turn is likely to have a negative impact on their ability to integrate fully into social, economic and political spheres of life in the UK.
Reduction in numbers
From the point of view of the Government’s wider aim of reducing numbers, the proposals are also likely to result in more undocumented migration, a shift in the nature of marriages of conveniences – these are likely to take place with an EU national in order to circumvent controls, and more extensive use by those in the vast majority of genuine cases of European free movement rights more under the Surinder Singh principle for example – if anything this will make regulation of marriages of inconvenience more difficult. It is therefore unlikely that these measures will have any significant impact on numbers.
Finally, these measures are also inconsistent with the international human rights framework – this seeks not only to promote family unity and the enjoyment of family life, but to do soon a non-discriminatory basis. The European Commissioner for Human Rights has already expressed concern about the use of restrictive laws to prevent families reuniting. Too many of the proposals in this paper would operate in a way that would impair the enjoyment of those rights, in particular for women, and certain ethnic groups. This is inconsistent more generally with promotion of equality/elimination of discrimination.
It is also deeply disappointing to see both misleading statements about human rights law and principles in this paper together with the Home Secretary’s statement that she ‘… will change the Immigration Rules to ensure that the misinterpretation of Article 8…the right to a family life- no longer prevents deportation of people who shouldn’t be here’ when this issue is subject to ongoing consultation, and is more generally a matter for the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights.
In the light of the above, and the very significant implications that would flow from these measures, we urge the Government to reconsider its proposals and to ensure that:
- policy measures are based on sound research and evidence establishing both the existence of a statistically significant ‘problem’ in the first place, and that such measures would be effective in addressing the relevant issues
- policy measures are consistent with the principles set out in the international human rights framework, and that no decision in relation to the interpretation of Article 8 ECHR is taken until Parliament has debated the findings made by the Commission on a UK Bill of Rights
- policy measures reflect the reality of transnational and binational relationships.
Family Migration is the focus of JCWI’s annual seminar, which is organised in conjuction with the Annual General Meeting. This year, on Wednesday 26 October at 7.30pm in Garden Court Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ, speakers Helena Wray (Middlesex University) and Sonali Naik (Garden Court Chambers) will speak on “‘Better Family Migration’ – but for whom?”. For more details see our main website, the event is free and open to all, there will be a reception afterwards.