New Tougher Immigration Laws: Is the UK Finally Drawing the Iron Curtain Before Third World Immigrants?
Monday, June 25, 2012
But while anti-immigrant policies and measures being put in place by populist politicians in order to win votes may be popular with the natives, they will have untold consequences for poor migrant families, especially those from the so-called third world countries.
Last week, the UK minister of interior, Theresa May, who is in charge of nationality and immigration, announced yet more draconian rules that will have severe implications for both settled and prospective immigrants from non-European (EU) countries.
The proposed new Immigration Rules, contained in the Statement of Intent published by the UKBA on 11th June, will come into effect on 9 July, 2012 with devastating impact on family-life for the affected immigrants.
Firstly, the proposed rules will make the already stringent criteria for family migration - bringing wives, husbands and dependant children - into the UK even tougher to a near impossibility for those on low income.
The proposals were justified on controversial claims, with little or no evidence backing them, that family immigration into the UK has not been regulated effectively for many years; that many weddings involving immigrants are sham marriages; and that the current rules do not stop migrants becoming a burden on the taxpayer.
So, from July 9, anyone wanting to bring his wife or husband to settle in the UK will need a minimum income of £18, 600. If a child is involved, then the threshold will be £22,400. For every extra child, the threshold will increase by £2,400.
Obviously, those most likely to be affected by this change will be women and young non-working British citizens and those with indefinitely leave to remain on low-paid income. Crucially, it is only the sponsor’s earnings alone, not the joint-income of the sponsor, or the proposed wife or husband that will be considered.
Currently the rules simply require new migrants to demonstrate that they will not need to claim social benefits, such as unemployment or housing or local tax benefits. There is no minimum income requirement.
Thus, a couple could easily satisfy the rules by showing that the sponsor has a double bedroom in a shared-accommodation and earns a reasonable income. They might even show that they meet the criteria by saying that they will live with relatives and paying no rent.
With the new rules, none of these will be acceptable, although it seems that those serving in the British armed forces and those granted refugee status, may not have to meet the minimum income requirement.
Secondly, the proposed rules will also change the route to settlement – Indefinite Leave to Remain and then citizenship. Instead of the current two years period, the minimum probationary period for new spouses will go up to five years. This is significant because a separation within the five-year period may result in removal of the non-UK based partner, regardless of fault. Therefore, many people are likely to be stuck in abusive relationships.
Thirdly, it is envisaged that new guidance will be issued to immigration officials to help them identify sham marriages, as couples are often not believed if they say they intend to live together permanently in a matrimonial relationship.
The minister’s announcement suggests more intrusive immigration policing of couples, including late-night or early-morning enforcement visits to check that the couple are living together as claimed.
One wonders what will be the consequence if one of the spouses is not found in the house because she/he is on a night shift, as a security officer or a nurse (as immigrants tend to do), or even working away in another town.
Moreover, from October 2013, there will be stricter English language test requirement, at the Intermediate Level, in addition to ‘Life in the UK’ test both of which must be passed. Interestingly, these tests will not apply to other European citizens who may have very little English or none at all.
Fourthly, the current rules allow the admission of extended family members to join UK-settled relatives only if they would otherwise be living alone in the most exceptional compassionate circumstances.
However, with the new rules, aunts, uncles and cousins will no longer be eligible for such reunion. Such family re-union will be restricted to spouses, children, siblings, parents and grandparents.
Fifthly, the right of appeal for immigrants who are refused entry clearance visa for family visits will be severely restricted and will eventually go when the Crime and Courts Bill becomes law, soon.
These changes, coupled with the reported unfair rejection of African immigration applications by the UK Border Agency, will mean more insurmountable obstacle to entry into the UK for non-EU citizens from the third world.
Of course those affected may still be able to challenge visa refusals through litigation in the UK High Court. But this is very expensive and slow. The alternative is to make repeated visa applications, each time paying non-refundable visa fees, hoping to win the mercy of the visa officers.
Another major change proposed by the UK Border Agency, is the abolition of the 14-year rule for settlement. This allows people to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK because they have been living here for 14 years, legally or not.
The new rules will require such immigrants to be in the UK for at least 20 years.
Finally, the proposed rules will impose that ‘serious criminals’ cannot use family tie arguments to avoid deportation. All the politicians and the UK media, especially the rightwing press, such as the Daily Mail, seem to be in agreement on this. The courts too appear to be taken hard-line approach on foreign convicted criminals (see for example the 2010 case involving a Gambian drug convict).
Consequently, deportation of an offender who has served a 12-month sentence would now normally be justified regardless of his or her family ties in the UK unless he/she has been living here presumably lawfully for twenty years with a partner and children who cannot go elsewhere. Those sentenced to four years or more will be deported, regardless of length of time in the UK or family ties (see the Guardian Newspaper 10 June 2012). Clearly, the proposed immigration rules arguably mark final drawing of the iron-curtain, shutting out third world immigrants. Moreover, they are likely to cause family break-up and breakdown of other relationships. To this extent, they are unjust and unfair. Perhaps it will be advisable for those wanting to make visa applications in the relevant categories to do so as soon as possible, before 9th July.
Author: By: NfallyKebbeh Open Justice in The Gambia Openjusticeingambia@gmail.com