UK Government lost their way with Immigration rules

A loud raspberry was blown by one group of people at David Cameron’s pro-family speech last week – not because they disagreed with his sentiments; quite the opposite, in fact. They are the fiancées and spouses of foreign nationals with whom they want to settle in the UK, often together with their children, but whose yearning for a family life is being thwarted by the zealous application of tough new visa restrictions.

The Prime Minister has decreed that every department will in future be required to apply a “family test” to their policies because the way hundreds of foreign criminals earmarked for deportation by the courts have been able to stay in the country by invoking their right to a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

We know of many couples who have been battling away since February, with the first 12 weeks taken up with health checks for TB, which proved negative, followed by demands for  proficiency in English – despite demonstrating their command of the language by successfully completing the umpteen forms she has had to fill in.

I have been a Conservative voter all my life but I have to say: ‘What price loyalty?’ They have definitely lost my vote. And this is the country that Rychyl is supposed to settle down in and love?” The couple have had to cancel flights, move the date of their wedding twice and have become increasingly disenchanted with state bureaucracy and politicians seeking plaudits for extolling the virtues of family life.

So what has gone wrong? An immigration policy that should encourage into the country the people we do want and keep out those we don’t produces almost the opposite result. We give a home to foreign criminals who should be removed and open the door to returning jihadis who hate this country, while at the same time making life hell for British citizens who want to do nothing more threatening than settle down with their wives and children.

Partly, this is a consequence of the ambition to reduce net immigration to the “tens of thousands”. This was never the answer, since you could achieve low net figures by having one million foreign nationals coming in and 995,000 Britons leaving. How would that help matters? Moreover, the free movement of people within the European Union means we have absolutely no control over the entry of EU nationals whoever they may be, so we counteract that by targeting British subjects wanting to bring in non-EU spouses. If the aim is to stop particular ethnic or national groups using this as a route into the country for extended families, then why not deal with the specific issue rather than adopt a catch-all approach simply to avoid being accused of discrimination?

Since the new rules were introduced in July 2012, thousands of British citizens have been left distressed by the difficulties they have faced to set up home with their loved ones. Applicants have to pass the onerous financial test that requires British spouses to prove savings of more than £60,000 or a disposable annual income of £18,600 if they want to sponsor a foreign spouse. This rises to £22,400 for families with a child and a further £2,400 for each further child. These provisions exclude up to 47 per cent of Britain’s working population. A cross-party committee of MPs and peers has twice called for a review of the financial rules, but the Home Office says they are a fair way of tackling abuse of the system, even if critics suspect politicians of turning a blind eye to the hardship they are causing for fear of being seen as soft on immigration.

Of course voters want governments to respond to concerns about immigration; but that does not mean they want any old policy cobbled together just to garner a headline or two. They want one founded on common sense and basic justice. It is, for instance, patently unfair that other EU citizens are free to come and live in the UK with spouses from outside the EU yet British citizens do not enjoy the same rights. By the Government’s own estimate, some 18,000 British people will be prevented from being reunited with their spouse or partner every year as a result of the new rules. The process is causing heartache for decent people seeking the family life that Mr Cameron wants to place at the center of all policy-making.