Theresa May obviously thinks Nick Clegg needs persuading – or at least is persuadable. In her ‘leaked’ letter to him about the coming Immigration Rule changes to be laid before Parliament in the next few months, she seeks to persuade Mr Clegg of the wisdom of choosing upper figure for maintenance thresholds for spouses/partners outlined by MAC in their snappily entitled report Review of the minimum income requirement for sponsorship under the family migration route.
We’ve briefed and blogged about this before and we’re hoping that Mr Clegg has been following what we’ve been saying, but in case he hasn’t we popped a letter (see below) in the post to him last week.
For your perusal we have reproduced the letter below. It’s all pretty self explanatory. Perhaps the letter might make the basis of one you may wish to send to your own MP on the issue.
The measures, if introduced in the form that Theresa May states she is aiming for, will make the UK one of the most exclusive countries for spouses to join their partners in. It will, of course, also result in the UK citizens enjoying even less extensive rights to live with their families in the UK than their EEA counterparts.
The threshold in the USA is currently about £9000, if Mrs May gets her way our threshold will be four timwes as much for families with one child.
We hope Mr Clegg will read all his post – and make a reasoned decision.
Rt Hon Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
29 March 2012
Dear Mr Clegg,
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a national charity that provides direct legal assistance to immigrants, and campaigns for a human rights based approach to immigration and asylum law and policy.
We write to outline concerns about the introduction of earning thresholds for sponsors together with the proposed extension of the probationary period for immigrant spouse/partners of British/settled people, and would urge you to oppose what we see as deeply retrogressive measures.
In an article appearing in the Telegraph newspaper on 24 March 2012, reference is made to leaked correspondence between yourself and the Home Secretary. According to the article, the letter details new policy proposals that would be applicable to non EEA migrants who wish to join their British/settled spouses and partners in the UK. In respect of this group, it seems that the intention is to increase the probationary period from two to five years. The letter also refers to the introduction of a sponsorship threshold of £25,700 for a British/settled person wishing to sponsor a spouse/partner. This rises to £37,000 in the case of a sponsor with one child. In the case of two children, the proposal is for a threshold of £49,300, and in the case of three it is £62,000. It is suggested that these proposals seek to reduce burdens on the taxpayer, promote integration and tackle abuse.
Excessive sponsorship thresholds
In our view these figures are quite simply excessive. They are not in keeping with the lower thresholds demanded by the USA and many other European countries where they are even applicable. The figures used for the thresholds also significantly exceed the Government’s own assessment of the income individuals require to live in the UK on a self sufficient basis (Income Support for a couple is £9,100 for a household of 2, £11,500 for three, and £13,900 for four. The minimum wage of course is set £2.60-£6.08 per hour).
The net effect of the application of the above thresholds will be to make it considerably more difficult for ordinary British and settled people to be reunited with family members, or to establish and maintain family life in the UK. These measures can also be expected to result in multiple forms of discrimination in relation to the enjoyment of longstanding rights to family reunion.
Disparity between British nationals and EEA nationals
Most obviously, the disparity between rights to family reunion enjoyed by British citizens in the UK, and their EEA counterparts will be yet further extended if these proposals are introduced. It is deeply regrettable that instead of seeking to level up entitlements to family reunion enjoyed by British nationals – many of whom have worked, paid taxes and contributed to the British economy for the bulk of their working lives, the Coalition has instead chosen to treat them as second class citizens through yet further downgrading longstanding rights to family reunification (EEA nationals exercising Treaty rights will of course not be subject to such demanding requirements).
Discriminatory enjoyment of family reunion rights for young people, women, certain ethnic groups and the disabled
Additionally the application of the above thresholds will result in the imposition of inferior rights to family reunification for young people, women, the disabled and certain ethnic groups given that they, tend, on average to have lower earnings in the labour market. They also raise particular concerns for women generally, and those from South Asia more so given that some 60% of family migration flows are made up of women, and tend mainly to emanate from South Asia.
Furthermore the extension of the probationary period is likely to lock partners (who overwhelmingly tend to be female) into abusive and violent relationships. Incredibly, Theresa May has previously stated “I am committed to strengthening women’s economic, social and political participation in society”. These proposals however are likely to achieve the very antithesis.
Whilst it is clear to us that the above measures will have a detrimental effect on British people and settled individuals who wish to establish a family in the UK, or reunite with family members, there is no cogent evidence to suggest that the above measures will be effective in achieving any of the stated policy objectives.
In relation to protecting the taxpayer, it is of course the case that there is already a ‘no recourse to public funds requirement’ in place for those on probationary visas. Claims that these measures will save the taxpayer money are therefore disingenuous to say the least.
Furthermore, so far as fraud and abuse goes it is already a requirement of the Immigration Rules that there is a genuine intention to live together as husband and wife. Furthermore there already exist wide powers in immigration law to address fraudulent marriages through powers to curtail limited leave, and revoke both limited and indefinite leave to remain. It is therefore unclear as to why such measures are considered necessary, or how they will be any more effective in addressing existing problems (to the extent that they exist). Indeed for those committed to fraudulent marriages, such requirements may simply push them to use EU law which if anything would potentially generate greater problems with fraud.
The proposals also make little sense from the perspective of reducing numbers entering the UK overall. Indeed the MAC’s own assessment is that the raising of thresholds will have an insignificant impact on migration levels, given that such flows in any event only account for 20% of non-EU migration.
Finally, on the question of integration, much of the academic research into the area suggests that it is precisely forcing families to live apart for prolonged periods of time, and subjecting them to hardship that adversely impacts on their ability to participate fully and effectively both in the labour market and society more generally.
In the light of the above we would urge you to oppose these proposals altogether, or at the very least support more reasonable income thresholds which are in line with levels awarded under the welfare state. Should you feel that you need any further information, we would be very happy to meet with you to discuss such matters in further detail. In the meantime we look forward to receiving your response to our concerns and have enclosed for your information our response to the family migration consultation.