Minister Admits Spouse Migration Rules Are ‘unfair’ To UK Citizens
According to a BBC News report from yesterday Immigration Minister James Brokenshire has set his sight on what he had qualified as "loophole" that allows non-British EU citizens to bring in a spouse without being subject to the Government's requirements on minimum earnings.
Given the current mood in Immigration policy and Minister’s past record it is more than certain that one of the fundamental Human Rights – the right to family life guaranteed by ECHR art. 8, will suffer another attack.
The Minister’s comments have been made as part of his evidence given before Parliament's Home Affairs Committee Brokenshire has claimed the need to address what he feels to be an unfair situation.
Since July 2012, British citizens or those with indefinite leave wishing to sponsor their non-EU spouse's visa need to prove earnings of at least £18,600 a year. The threshold goes higher for families with a child.
The situation, however, is different for EEA nationals wishing to reunite on British soil with a family. This issue was raised by Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz, who pointed out to Brokenshire that the same earnings requirements did not apply to citizens of other EU countries.
Vaz, cited by BBC, has said: "Two people living in identical houses next to each other - one who happens to be British born or a person with indefinite leave tried to bring someone from India, they have got to show their £18,600 … However, the next door neighbour who comes from Slovakia, who has settled in Leicester, and who wants to bring her spouse in, doesn't have to show that income. That's unfair isn't it?"
According to same source, Brokenshire has conceded that Vaz was "right to highlight" the unfairness and it was an issue the UK planned to raise with the EU.
Undoubtedly the inequitable situation pointed by Mr. Vaz is unacceptable. Or at least it should be in a country with any claim to democratic values. However the solution is hardly further championing of already heavy repression of human right to family life. Rather than furthering this abuse against Human Rights, the correct measure should have been granting British nationals and those with Indefinite Leave to Remain in UK the same rights as the EEA nationals when it came to their right to maintain a healthy and happy family life. In essence, by putting a financial threshold on sponsoring a family member visa equates to the Government indirectly dictating the origins of British nationals’ spouses. For as long as one is free to marry another British national, or EEA national, but has to earn a certain amount of money or face choosing between being forced out of his or her country or putting an end to the marriage, the message the Government sends is clear – don’t marry into a culture outside of EEA.
Our expectation that Mr. Brokenshire’s words are to be read as desire to see the EEA nationals sanctioned in the same way as the British nationals for their choice of spouses is based on heavy evidence of the current Immigration policy having little regard for Human Rights. A direct evidence to it is one of the last publications on Governmental portal for visa and Immigration. In a short piece published on the portal on 6th January 2015 “’Deport First, appeal later’ measures start to bite”, Home Office and Mr. Brokenshire proudly announce “And the new powers have seen a number of criminals deported despite having family members in the UK – reinforcing the government’s stance that the right to a family life should not override the rights of wider society.”
While Human Rights should always be exercised in balance with public good, casually declaring that all and every right of wider society is more important than family life is a clear breach of the obligations undertook under ECHR.
Unfortunately, if the Government manages to further its agenda announced through the voice of the Minister, the result is going to be further burdening of the courts, as a new flow of Judicial Reviews and Appeals will be lodged to challenge the determinations of Home Office on the grounds, among others, of family and private life, as it is already happening today for non EEA spouses of British nationals or those with indefinite leave. Given the fact that the Government proclaims to aim to safeguarding the taxpayers’ money from those who seek to benefit British welfare system, it is difficult to understand how this is achieved by adopting measures that are in clear contradiction with long standing democratic values and generate large number of challenges in courts often enough financed by public money.