Migrants’ Rights Network: The battle on family migration will be a long one, but we can win

by , under Ruth Grove-White

By Ruth Grove-White

Every now and again there are changes to the immigration rules which even writers for the Daily Mail voice their objections to. The new rules on family migration to the UK, which came into force on Monday, represent a major assault on family life for Brits and migrants alike. Campaigners now need to work on bringing political opposition to the rules out from behind closed doors.

Monday’s changes to the family migration rules are significant: the UK now ranks among the toughest of Western democracies on family reunification policies.

Among other changes, the government has introduced a new income requirement of £18,600 per year for people who wish to bring a foreign partner to live with them in the UK. This means an estimated 47% of the UK working population would not qualify to bring their overseas spouse or partner here in the future.

The Home Office estimates up to 18,500 people every year will be prevented from coming to join family members here as a result. This may be helpful in inching the government towards lower net migration levels, but will be devastating for the families who are kept apart as a result.

Although the family migration changes have been politically controversial, much opposition has been confined to back rooms in Whitehall rather than aired in public. Press reports earlier this year hinted at internal battles between Lib Dems and Conservatives on family migration, with children and families minister Sarah Teather rumoured to be particularly resistant to tough rule changes.

Although these issues were officially resolved, behind closed doors there is reportedly still opposition among some Lib Dem MPs to the new rules.

Labour has also found itself in a tangled position over the family migration changes. Despite vocal opposition to the family rules among key players such as front bencher Kate Green MP and home affairs committee chair Keith Vaz MP, the Labour front bench has not yet expressed a clear position against these rules.

Still in the midst of a policy review, there has seemingly been reluctance to wade into a debate that could result in Labour once again being painted as soft on immigration. But never say never. What is certain is that the fight for family rights will continue and it has the scope to build political support.

Now that the family migration rules have come into force there will be growing evidence about their negative impacts, with particular problems anticipated for young couples, Asian families, and in parts of the UK with low average incomes.

Families who are affected can help to overturn these rules in the future by writing to their MPs, joining campaigns and building solidarity with others who are affected.

If the evidence can be amassed, Monday’s changes potentially offer up a future political opportunity: to speak out on an immigration issue that will affect thousands of Brits as well as migrants in the UK. And as the next general election draws nearer we hope to see quiet support develop into concerted political leadership, that points the UK in a different direction on family migration.

This article first appeared on the Left Foot Forward website on 11th July 2012.

Read original story here.

This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.


  1. bacchushelsinki

    I don’t really see the problem with this change; surely the idea that an immigrant should be able to support himself in his host country is not controversial? Self-sufficiency is more probable for those earning above the median wage in their destination country.

    • JusticeDemon

      A strictly corresponding change in Finland would effectively put a stop to the practice of finding foreign brides for Finnish rednecks, and would also prevent many expatriate Finns from returning to Finland with their foreign family members. It would also encourage emigration by Finnish higher education graduates with foreign spouses or prospective spouses.

      The key expression is “constructive deportation”.

  2. bacchushelsinki

    A strictly corresponding change in Finland would effectively put a stop to the practice of finding foreign brides for Finnish rednecks, and would also prevent many expatriate Finns from returning to Finland with their foreign family members. It would also encourage emigration by Finnish higher education graduates with foreign spouses or prospective spouses.

    The key expression is “constructive deportation”.

    This change only applies to immigrants holding temporary visas and residence permits, not citizens. The spouse of a Finnish citizen would retain all rights (as would a UK citizen). From my perspective, this is a purely beneficial evolution of immigration law.

    • JusticeDemon

      bacchushelsinki

      This change only applies to immigrants holding temporary visas and residence permits, not citizens. The spouse of a Finnish citizen would retain all rights (as would a UK citizen).

      Now it’s not clear which system, reform and proposed reform you are discussing.

      My understanding of the new UK policy is that it specifically applies to all family reunification, including the families of British citizens with the right of abode in the UK. This is specifically a policy that envisages constructive deportation of British citizens from the UK if they cannot afford to support their foreign family members.

      I assume that you understand the meaning of the expression “constructive deportation”, or that you at least understood the comment that you quoted.

      We have discussed current policy in Finland and certain (at this stage still embryonic) proposals for changing this policy in another thread. The key issue is inequitable treatment. The economic considerations in family reunification have nothing to do with the citizenship of the family member who already resides in Finland. Where is the essential difference between a case in which a Thai immigrant in a low-paid job cannot afford to sponsor a spouse or child from Thailand and a case in which an out-of-work Finnish redneck cannot afford to sponsor a mail-order bride from that country? Both the Thai immigrant and the Finnish redneck are free to move to Thailand.

      From my perspective, this is a purely beneficial evolution of immigration law.

      What is your “perspective”? Are you a foreigner or do you have a foreign spouse?

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