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Can reducing immigration be a legitimate aim in human rights law?


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It has been announced that a minimum income threshold will be introduced for foreign spouses to be eligible to come to or remain in the UK. The level will be set at £18,600 for those without children and at higher levels for those with children. In doing so on Sunday morning breakfast TV Home Secretary Theresa May is reported to have said:

“This isn’t just about the numbers though…”

Observers of Government immigration policy might be rather surprised to hear this. The Government has made very plain that the intention of its immigration policy is to reduce numbers of immigrants. This is certainly no secret. The Conservative Party manifesto for the 2010 election was very clear:

“…immigration today is too high and needs to be reduced”

All sorts of legal and policy levers have been pulled to achieve this aim since the Conservatives took office. Numbers of foreign students are being heavily reduced and a quota has been imposed on skilled worker migration, for example. These measures have not, however, been enough to meet the manifesto commitment to “take net migration back to the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands”. The most recent figures show that immigration is actually increasing under the current Government, in fact.

So, further levers must be found, and the Government turned to family immigration. In July 2011 a consultation was launched on this issue and the very first words to Theresa May’s forward were as follows:

“This government is determined to bring immigration back to sustainable levels…

May then continued in a similar vein, specifically saying that family migration had to be reduced:

“But we have been clear that we will take action across all the routes of entry to the UK, so we must also take action on the family migration route.”

Again, the intention could not be clearer. So why would May suddenly be claiming that a central plank of the policy to reduce family migration is actually not about reducing numbers?

Because reducing immigration is probably not a legitimate aim under Article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights? Article 8 reads as follows:

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The Government is very likely to lose the inevitable legal challenges to this new rule if it interferes with an individual’s family life in a significant way and does so for a reason that is not one of the legally permissible ones. National security cannot be invoked here, nor can public safety or the prevention of disorder or crime. The economic well being of the country might be argued, but in reality Government policy on immigration is not an economic policy, it is a social and cultural one. In any event, the level at which the income threshold is being set is based on a snapshot short term approach to economics. It is well known that immigration always boosts an economy as a whole. The protection of health or morals might also be argued, as it could be suggested that the measure is about promoting social integration. It seems a bit of a stretch to say this is a matter of protection of morals, though.

Judges are usually slow to say that politicians (or their lawyers) are being disingenuous, but the explicit public statements already made on this issue will be hard to explain away. The government is cruising for yet another legal bruising.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


50 Responses

  1. The anatomy of Tory mentality consists of class structured arrogance as well as upper class ignorance of the people not as privileged as themselves.Hence, such people are not even considered as human beings let alone treated equally and with respect. No wonder Theresa May wants to abolish the Human Rights as she believes it is only her ilk that are human, the rest are just human fodder. Hence also she wants to introduce the Nazi philosophy of ‘unproductive sub-human citizens’ who do not fit in with her class structure – the poor people whom she wants to segregate by preventing them from marrying unless they have as healthy income as herself. Thus she wants resurrection of the doctrines of racist Nazism and Aparthied at the same time with the same brutal enforcement. Ultimately, she wants evil to conquer while good men are merely postulating.

    1. The Home Secretary wants resurrection of the doctrines of racist Nazism? Are you living on another planet? How can you equate anything that the Home Sec has done with Nazism? You comment is ignorant and downright offensive to those that did suffer during the Nazi period.

      Go and read up about Nazism and then come back and say the Home Sec is on a par with this.

  2. Please correct me if i am wrong, this basically means that anyone from an EU member country can bring their non-EU spouse with them to live in the UK without any restrictions, but a British person who decides to marry from outside the EU will have to meet this income restriction among others. The changes to settlement probation periods from 2-5 years in order to test the strength or genuineness of relationship seems absurd to me especially with people who have been married for a very long time, but may be applying at different times due to the logistics of moving to another country. This government is failing to understand that leaning to the populist right wing propaganda against immigrants does not necessarily make them popular as polls and recent election results have shown. Getting rid of immigrants or restricting their entry will not solve the country’s economic woes, it may actually adversely affect economic growth. Bonkers

  3. Aziz Bhatti: brutal words! However, I can’t help but, at least in substance, fully agree with you!

  4. immigration must be reduced and can be done quite legally because the UK is signed up to the UN Convention which commits the Government to providing the highest attainable standard of health care etc – this cannot be rpovided if immigrants clog the doctors and hospitals and use beenfits they have not paid into.

    1. Why “must” immigration be reduced? You phrase your view as if it were a proven fact. It is not a fact that it must be increased either. But the rights of genuine families to remain together are more important than that debate.

      By the way, you realise that the NHS would be f*** without migrant staff at all levels over several decades and currently?

    2. The highest standard of health care? I would’ve been more inclined to agree with your assertion had you chosen public services, transport, schooling or any other aspect of public life, but health care!

      No industry has benefited more from immigration! All our hospitals are full of foreign doctors, nurses and other medical professions. All our care homes are full of overseas carers coming in to fill in jobs that are not attracting attention en masse by the homegrown population.

      Are you suggesting it’s okay to benefit from these medical professionals as long as they are treating ‘us’ and only ‘us’?

  5. “The Government is very likely to lose the inevitable legal challenges to this new rule”

    Hopefully but are the Danish rules – note that the ECHR and Art 8 apply there too.


    Do read all the details and links on the left if interested in how strict rules can be. Denmark now has a new non-conservative gov’t which envisages making these rules humane (at some point) but these rules have been in place for considerable time despite Art 8 etc. They have led to emigration of Danish citizens of the wrong, sorry, other, ethnic backgrounds to be with their spouses. They have led to extensive use of ECJ Singh by Danes moving primarily to southern Sweden but also elsewhere.

    The Netherlands also have rules stricter than those the UK had previously. Substantial use of ECJ Singh there too, known commonly as “the Belgian route” because moving across the border to Belgium is a relatively easy solution.

    The problem is that many governments in Europe and indeed worldwide see controlling immigration (or appearing to) as more important than the much spouted respect for freedom to marry, family life etc. Though I’m single, I’m fortunate to be a citizen of a country, Switzerland, where domestic law even places family first when one spouse is not a citizen.

    A problem particular to the UK is the lack of a constitution and the HRA/ECHR being the closest thing to a guarantee of human rights free from parliamentary intervention, subject to ongoing Council of Europe membership. Compare the rest of western Europe and Canada with its consitutition and charter and the USA with its constitution and amendments. Not that international families are free from hurdles in other countries despite that.

    It is good luck that the UK courts have interpreted Art 8 as they have. (DLR based on partner and/or best interests of the children). At least for those already in the UK. Of course there’s no “DLR entry clearance” as such.

    I’m no lawyer but as I understand it, the UK parliament can water down the ECHR to the direct effect of the decisions of the Strasbourg Court itself. These do not for eg. go as far as ZH (Tanzania). I hope however that I’m wrong, that the courts effectively provide that the spouse rules can’t get stricter.

    There are also noises from other countries about challeging A1 language rules in Strasbourg, that would be good.

    Aside from that, more attention needs to be paid to ECJ Carpenter. (Briton provides goods/services to other EU countries without moving = under certain circumstances EEA law for the spouse.) Funny that the HO never shouts about that one. The courts could expand its reach and application. Same with Zambrano possibly despite Derici.

    Other than that, there will be more British citizens moving to other EEA countries, especially Ireland because of language and geography, intending to use Singh. Some may discover that the Irish government is generally not as mean and nasty as the Con-Dem-UK “big society” and find it more amenable to live there, which would surely please Theresa May, especially if they take the family cat when they move away…

    Aziz Bhatti,

    Yes, harsch words, but I agree with your sentiment. Really though I think its about votes for the Cons above human rights.
    You may be interested to know: spouses of Germans usually do not face a maintenance and accommodation requirement, there is an A1 language test whose legality is disputed. Parents of minor German children do not ever face a language test or a maintenance and accommodation requirement. They can apply from outside the country, even if the child hasn’t moved there yet either. Why? Because of the way the German constitution was written after WW2 based on history. (Article 6 Grundgesetz, Basic Law, if interested, protection of family by the state.)

    *Long rant over*.
    If people want to marry a person who happens to have a different citizenship, that is their right.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Whilst I absolutely abhor the measure that you’re talking about (on moral grounds) I wonder about your arguments for the following reasons:

    1) the consultation also refers to ‘reducing the burden on the taxpayer’ and ‘promotion of integration’ as justifications for the measures. A reduction in numbers has not been offered as the sole justification for these measures.

    2) On the question of economics, as I understand it, research shows that impacts vary. Sure, taken as a whole and amalgamated with tier 1, 2 and other categories of migrant, research does show that there are net economic benefits, however not every kind of migrant generates the same economic benefits and it’s not simply the case that all migration is good for a national economy, as such (even though it might be good for more efficient global deployment of resources in a global economy but this a separate issue, and of course why should familial migration have to be good for the economy). The Government’s justification is that through the use of this figure, given the assessment of the Migration Advisory Committee, this is the amount that’s necessary to avoid access to the welfare state (thereby saving public money at a point in time that cuts are also being made to public services in the light of eco circumstances).

    3)Importantly,there’s an A8 saving clause so if you don’t meet the threshold, the result is leave outside of the Rules, not removal. My understanding is that Article 8 ECHR does not entitle one to a particular kind of status, as such.

    4) The text of Article 8 ECHR refers to the economic well being of the country, that doesn’t necessarily mean that just because immigration policy is social policy it does not affect the economic well being of a country – see for example the way in which the Court dealt with Chapti and counsel’s arguments about the use of immigration law for pursuit of integration on the grounds that this was not a legitimate aim.

    None of the above should detract from the fact that these proposals are utterly repugnant ones which will have profound implications for many ordinary people and that they’re likely to be counterproductive, but I do wonder about this legal analysis.

    Thanks and all the best,

    1. On (3) it is good and right that discretionary leave be granted in such cases.

      The biggest problem remaining there is for binational families seeking to move to the UK from outside the EEA where the requirements are not (or not yet) met. In the worst case, the British citizen has to choose between the UK and their family members.

  7. Oh dear oh dear oh dear, here we go again, the use of the old straw man argument, UKBA, hopo’s politicians and anyone who disents from the ILPA line are “evil nazis” etc etc.

    There are some valid criticisms that can be made both in relation to the Article 8 ‘guidance’, in addition to SSHD’s claim that her agenda is anything other than reducing numbers.

    Comparing FM’s career path to that of Andy Coulson (good clean fun) is one thing, but references to numerberg and nazis is just plain stupid.



  8. Is it so wrong to fall in love with who you please just because you don’t earn enough? I have my own home full time job but don’t earn the 18600 required and have no chance of doing so . What chance now do me and my husband have of living a normal family life. It’s not as easy as just moving to another country when you have children in school, college can they really get away with this ?

  9. Jay – I am speaking with over 30 years of research in the ‘Anatomy of Tory Mentality’, for your tuppeny hal’pny knowledge, let me tell you the difference between Extreme Toryism and Nazism is only that of a degree but not of substance. One does not necessarily have to gas the innocent to be identified as an advocate of Nazi doctrine, denying people their fundamental human rights and keeping families apart, as May intends to do, ultimately amounts to the same thing,i.e. death in gas chambers and deprivation of human family life through a racist legislation that’s intended for specifically for the African and Asian people. Name a single white European who would be subject to her draconian laws – or look at the Tory’s last stint in power – virginity tests for instance – what do you think all these measures amount to – a loving and caring Conservatism? Wake up man and educate yourself – in the cherished values of human rights at least. In my view, ignorant is he who manifests deficiency of brain through intolerance. If you are a Tory hack, nothing more need be said.

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but are you equating death in a gas chamber with not being able to live in the country of your choice with your spouse? If you are I don’t think I need to say anything further.

      Thirty years of research is meaningless if it’s unproductive. But I’d still be interested to see it- I’m assuming you published your work?

    2. Jay:

      I think that any reference to Nazism is misplaced and does no favours to Aziz Bhatti’s argument. His argument can be made on a standalone basis and would carry much force without the need for a historical comparator (Nazism).

      Having said that, he’s clearly not equating death in a gas chamber with not being able to live in the country of your choice.

      He’s only identifying the underlying cause behind such behaviour – i.e. people were gassed because they were not deemed to be ‘worth’ anything and people not being able to live with their spouses on account of a low or lower salary (imbuing the reference that they are not ‘worth’ anything).

      That’s all. It may be ultimately misplaced but I have interpreted his comments as emphasising the growing ideology of ‘worthiness’ (and measuring one’s worth in purely monetary terms).

  10. What do people think about increasing the threshold for families with children. Is this about stopping them claim tax credits?

    Mutly touched on it, but what is the legal position in UKBA effectively stopping mother and British child joining British husband for example, purely based on finances? While UKBA have stalled on Zambrano, the situation does seem in contravention of Art.20.

  11. Is there any room for democracy here? Ie, if the majority of British people want immigration reduced (for whatever reason) are politicians entitled – or obliged – to act on this?

    The economic benefits argument is spurious, or at the very least up for debate. Never mind pressure on housing, schooling, welfare, health etc. Britain is already the most overcrowded country in the world and its infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly.

    Your commentators write as though this is all about evil rich Tories squashing the poor. In fact it is the traditional Labour voting working class who suffers from unchecked immigration, as it is their jobs that are taken and their areas where housing and other infrastructure comes under pressure.

    It is also the developing world who sees the best and brightest leave to work overseas, thus reducing their country’s chances of actually developing. Indeed, if large scale immigration is such a benefit, it must follow mathematically that some countries will benefit and others will greatly suffer, since we can’t have large scale immigration in every country in the world. Presumably you believe that, if Britain is enriched by many more coming, then the countries of origin are at the same time impoverished?

    Of course there are some benefits to be had from immigration, but is it not the right – or indeed the duty – of the British government to act in the interests of its own people. If the argument is an economic one, then surely the government should concentrate on a green card system whereby each prospective migrant is assessed on their potential economic contribution, and also subjected to health tests etc – ie what contribution they will make, rather than whatever “right” they can find for their own benefit.

    1. Bryan Murphy:

      Some very well made points.

      The economic arguments for and against reduced immigration are really complex.

      For example, my friend (a carpenter of four years) was really aggrieved when a group of Polish carpenters moved into his area. He was effectively driven out of business as they would charge £40 for a £120 job.

      I was sympathetic to him as an individual. Whilst this seemed a case of one overseas person causing a working class British person to lose his job, the reality was that, as the Polish carpenter did well and attracted business, he would have provided plenty of work to another British person/joint/firm in terms of supplies and equipment.

      Due to this Polish carpenter’s increased work and establishment, the supplies delivery company was able to hire two new British drivers to deliver the supplies(creating two full time jobs).

      In other words, the economy has a way of looking after itself. My friend losing his job was seen as a classic example of ‘immigration’ making him lose a job. The fact that the two new drivers gained a job was not, however, kindly attributed as a classic example ‘immigration’ creating jobs.

  12. Thanks for your comments. I should add a correction – I meant Britain is the most overcrowded country in Western Europe; in particular England, where most immigrants settle for one reason or another.

    One direct effect of a flood of cheap migrant labour is to lower wages. Businesses will be pleased with this, as they can make greater profits, but those who lose their traditional livelihood (plumbers, carpenters) will have to go to the time and expense of retraining or lower their wages right down to compete. Also, greater company profits might benefit the economy to a certain extent, but this is likely to be for the benefit of the middle class – who will be the shareholders and directors – not the working class. In fact as Joan Ryan observed in Parliament immigration usually leads to a larger economy, but little in the way of greater per capita GDP since the population is also increased.

    Meanwhile, of course, not much is said about the impact on Poland of the loss of all their skilled tradespeople to Britain. To be sure, some will send remittances to their families, but it is unlikely that will entirely make up for losing a million skilled people in very short order. As I said, if immigration benefits the recipient country then it must logically harm the donor country. It is not as if British tradespeople will move to Poland as a reciprocal swap.

    It must also follow that commentators here must deplore countries such as Japan and China which do not allow large scale immigration to their shores.

    Aziz’s Nazi analogies are unworthy of comment and frankly are borderline hate speech (though I don’t believe in criminalising hate speech).

    1. Bryan Murphy:

      It was nice reading your comment above. A well-written piece…providing plenty of food for though.

  13. Many interesting comments here. Of course immigration (and emigration) has always and will always be a controversial topic in many countries around the world.

    However absolutely everything a government in a democracy does is subject to fundamental human rights. For eg. the right to a fair trial.

    There are further human rights conditional on citizenship, for example the unlimited right to enter and remain in one’s country of citizenship (right of abode) and the right to vote.

    Another such right is (or at least should be) the right to family life without needing to choose between foreign family members and the right of abode. Whilst the definition of family is obviously also something one could debate extensively, this right should include

    (a) the right of spouses to choose which spouse’s country to live in and that the chosen country admit the foreign spouse subject only to a genuine relationship

    (b) the right of parents and minor children to live in the same country subject only to the existence of genuine parent-child contact.

    These being human rights, they should not be subject to any limitation either by virtue of popular will or ministerial or parliamentary decisions, because human rights do not depend on popular or parliamentary majorities. (Ideally they are part of a written constitution, but that’s another topic.)

    The acqusition of ILR and naturalisation and the conditions for them can be debated. As long as leave is granted at least whilst the family relationships mentioned continue. All other immigration, such as the many and frequent changes to the points based categories can be debated too.

    But just as the right marry and/or live with and/or have children with other citizens of one’s country is not and essentially cannot be restricted, neither should there be restrictions when a family member happens not to be a citizen.

  14. Indeed there should be certain rights that the democracy cannot override, and a fair trial is one of them, but I’m not convinced about the spouse point. “Subject to a genuine relationship” sounds impossible properly to determine and indeed fake marriages have been a serious problem in this country especially since the EU residency rights.

    It is rather like using Art 8 rights to resist deportation or extradition. You could say that it is wrong to disrupt the innocent family members just because someone has committed a crime. Or you could say that if someone is not a British citizen they should keep that in mind when choosing to live here and commit crimes here. It should be a privilege for a non citizen to live here, not a right. If I take someone in to my house to give them shelter, or hire someone to work in my house, it really behaves them not to commit a crime against my family. If they did my generosity would end, even if I would not evict my own family members in the same circumstances. I take the same view with my country. If someone comes here to work or to seek asylum, then I do not object, provided they abide by the law. Minor transgressions are one thing, imprison able offences another. I would deport any who commit a serious offence.

    Similarly, I would not say that someone I am sheltering or employing can automatically bring someone else in just because they are a spouse.

    As I said, very many countries are much harsher on immigration than Britain, which no one seems to mind. And no one has answered the point about donor countries suffering while Britain – still a rich country – benefits from all their health professionals, it workers, tradesmen, etc.

  15. Indeed, defining a genuine relationship is not easy and proving it can be even more difficult, especially for those who are just starting to cohabit after a recent wedding or parents whose children live with the other parent. It’s legitimate that the HO examines this and has enforcement mechanisms. Of course exactly what those are is another debate aside from other LTR requirements. Very basically I think if spouses can show they are or have started living together and there is nothing to suggest forged documents etc., then that should suffice until and unless it becomes known that it’s a sham, then quick removal.

    On criminality, if the foreign spouse/parent is a genuine danger to public safety they should be excluded, meaning violent criminals, terrorists etc. but not for eg. previous overstayers. I should have added such a reservation above. I guess it’s like the colloquial statement “everyone has the right to vote” but in fact prisoner voting is a controversial question in the UK. Very few rights are absolute with no exception at all.

    But I think there’s a difference between our homes and our countries. If you invite me into your home, you set the conditions and my presence or eviction is at your pleasure, it’s your space and not public space. That’s easy because I can reject the conditions and leave without any of my rights being violated. But if I want to marry and then have to choose between my wife and not only leaving my own place of residence but the country of residence, that’s different. If my wife is present in the country that has no effect on you, you don’t need to invite either of us to your place. The exception being violent criminality which would be a danger to others.

    I agree though that it’s a privilege for the migrant to be admitted to the destination country, that’s the difference between being a citizen or not. It’s a right though for the citizen spouse/child to have their spouse/parent present, hence there is of course no automatic right to ILR or to naturalisation or to remain if it is found not to be a genuine relationship. Just to remain whilst the family relationship continues, with whatever ILR rules the gov’t may implement.

    The donor country issue is complex. Comparing Poland and the UK is one comparison, but to compare the UK and USA would be another. There are millions of British citizens outside the UK, in the USa and elsewhaere, some by descent, some of whom were raised and educated in the UK but chose to emigrate, temporarily or permanently. Any return en masse would have an impact. And if another country has chosen to admit a person who applied to that country, then so be it in the sense that leaving one’s own country is a right, should another happen to allow entry.

    Yes, in a worldwide comparison British immigration rules are amongst the more civil. I just don’t like the idea of family members not being able to be together without a serious reason not merely related to questions of numbers or political agendas of the day.

  16. Jay – Yes, I still have my unpublished research manuscript which was completed in 1978 just before Mrs.Thatcher was about to destroy the entire social fabric of traditional British way of life. The reason it was not published was (1) it consisted of 365’000 words (Penguin Books) so it became too big to handle for any publisher, particularly, from an unknown author and (2) had it been in vassal praise of Toryism, it may well have been published within days. However, my manuscript is now of even more literary historical value than before.

    Regardless, now let me explain to you, as you seem to be having difficulty in understanding it, the underlying contrast between metaphorical and literal meaning of an expression. ‘death through gas chambers’ implies the eternal loss of family life for the living, and so would Theresa May’s proposed immigration hangman’s policies when a person earning less than the requisite £18’000 or so was adjudged ineligible to to bring his family over – thus he/ she, too, would suffer the eternal separation from his family. Quite frankly, I do not subscribe to this garbage being bandied about that – ‘one should go and live with his/ family abroad’. This is the crux of my argument because this sort of official retort is insensitive, uncaring and downright inhuman. Only the apartheid merchants in communion with fascist- Nazi philosophy would advocate this kind of treatment. So you see, the end product is ‘loss of family’, be it on account of ‘gas chambers’ or by nefarious virtue of the Home Secretary’s racist and oppressive immigration legislation.It’s one and the same thing and if it does not appeal to you – tough.

    Some noises have been made in relation to the economic growth and immigration – from the ex- colinised countries, of course, no mention is made of the ‘white immigration’ by the opportunist toadies like Sir Sydney Green et al. However, your beloved Daily Mail reported a few years back ( news lip available) ‘About ten million people are taken out of the labour market every year through retirement, redundancy or sickness, but there are not enough people to immediately fill this wide labour shortage gap that must pmpact on the national economic growth’. So guess, what would the country do without a constant flow of economic migrants? Your hero, Mr. Enoch Powell went to Africa and Asia to recruit doctors and nurses when he was the Minister of Health, but when these people came to live next door to him, he became incurably nasty – a typical anatomical reaction of the Tory mentality, if I may so add.

    1. Aziz, have a look at the other postings: it is not only me having ‘difficulty in understanding’ your bitter and twisted posts.

      Bryan: thank you for responding to Aziz in the way that I would have.

      I think the acid test for whether these Tory (led) policies are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ will be when we have elections in 2015. Polls will identify how the electorate feel this Government performed in immigration. I have a feeling the majority will say the tougher stance on immigration was a good thing. Their downfall may well be the stance taken on other policy issues (NHS, Education etc).

  17. I just hope, for your sake, you never meet a survivor of the Nazi regime, or any of their descendants. I would greatly fear for your safety were you to say that the immigration rules equate to their history.

    By your standards, incidentally, there are many, many more brutal regimes than Britain in immigration controls. Japan is one example. I trust you will be reporting them to the UN for crimes against humanity for having strict immigration rules … Or is it just Britain you hate, which sounds like racism to me …

    1. Bryan – you state, ‘By your standards, incidentally, there are many, many more brutal regimes than Britain in immigration controls. Japan is one example.’

      Could you justify this with some examples, because I’m not at all sure that this is the case and would be interested to know if I’m wrong?

      Certainly the Japanese Embassy does not seem to specify any income or indeed Japanese language requirement for spouses of Japanese citizens :- http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/visa/spouse-child.html

      To quote the Economist article http://www.economist.com/node/21556926 – ‘Sons and Lovers”The income requirement alone is off the scale.’

      I question your assertion as I don’t think this is particularly well-informed and at first glance is based on an incorrect standing of the leniency of British as opposed to other countries’ immigration systems. Please justify it.

  18. I would fully support all of the changes that Theresa May is proposing if she applied it all British citizens and not just those that want to bring in foreign spouses as a lot of people been through the British education system can be classed as illiterate, so why not teach them about life in the UK too. And if being British is a “privilege” then it should be earned by all, isn’t that fair? This just seems like thinly veiled attempt to keep out Asians as the rules proposed target that demographic in particular.

    1. Samreen- it can’t be applied to all British citizens. Where would you remove/ deport those British citizens that might fail the taste?

      The point is that the Government has a responsibility to act where it can and making immigration law/ rules more stringent is one way. I don’t see how the Government can act against those that are born with British citizenship- whether they’re black, white, asian or of any other ethnicity. Where do you propose a British white or British asian person is removed to?

  19. Very interesting comments, my question is what happens to a non Eu migrant who is already here, in a genuine relationship with a british citizen and has a family together ? Where his or her partner is not earning up to £18,600 threshold will he or her be considered right to residency hence such person has no criminal record . Thanks

  20. I don’t understand why there is a claim that the poor won’t be able to marry. The UKBA’s policy (as much as I loathe the UKBA) is not stopping people marrying. The question is whether the foreign spouse should be allowed to live in the UK, and subject to what conditions. There’s a lot of noise about breaking up families etc., but what of the foreign spouse who will be uprooted from their own background and family in order to come to the UK? The unspoken presumption, of course, is that there is a “right” for the couple to live in the country that has the higher standard of living, and given migration patterns from south Asia and Africa there will certainly be a frequent disparity between the UK and the country of the sponsored spouse. But that issue should be confronted in the open, not hidden behind bleeding heart rhetoric that pretends that the non-EU partner’s country doesn’t even exist or have its own immigration policy.

    1. “The UKBA’s policy (as much as I loathe the UKBA) is not stopping people marrying.”

      Well it was, at least without a COA, but thanks to the courts and not thanks to the UKBA/Gov’t, this has been abolished.

      The spouses should be able to choose which spouse’s country to live in. If most choose the one with the higher material standard of living then that country should be happy that it offers a higher standard of living. It’s in nobody’s interest to reduce migration by reducing the incentive of high standard of living.

  21. In addition, it’s no accident that critics of the policy emphasise those who fall in love and want to be together in the UK. It’s likely that the UK public will be much less sympathetic to those organising arranged marriages.

  22. 1. What are the rights for British citizens to live in other countries, and can these easily be obtained by marriage?

    2. Is Britain entitled to set rules just as strict as other countries, or must she uniquely open her borders?

    3. Forced marriages are not much of an issue with Canadian, African, Australian, New Zealand and South African communities in the UK. So yes measures aimed at combating forced marriages (a form of slavery) will affect Asian communities more. But what are the authorities to do? Turn a blind eye, and ignore suffering, for fear of being labelled racist? That would do grave injustice to the victims of forced marriage.

    4. The definition of a country is a geographical area with defined borders which those within that country (its citizens) police. Every country in the world answers to that description. Some aren’t so bothered about enforcing rules, because no-one wants to live there, so there isn’t much to enforce. Others are unbelievably strict eg the Gulf states, China, Japan, etc etc – far more strict than Britain. Britain’s problem is that one of her constituent parts, England, where most migrants settle for one reason or another, is desperately overcrowded. Hence she is trying to shore up the borders. Her attempts to do so are supported by the majority of the electorate.

    5. Immigration involves economic, environmental and social factors. These should be debated, rather than simply foreclosed on the ground that there are some poisonous racists out there. We don’t refuse to discuss sex and women’s rights just because some people are rapists. If anything, foreclosing immigration debate encourages the likes of the BNP, which always tries to portray itself as the victim, including victim of censorship.

  23. “2. Is Britain entitled to set rules just as strict as other countries, or must she uniquely open her borders?”

    Reading the comments on some Indian websites about this issue, they genuinely think the answer is yes. They think the UK should have a liberal immigration policy as a kind of informal reparations for the past injustices of the British Empire.

  24. Brian Murphy,
    1. Of course this issue only arises outside the EEA. Conditions for a residence permit based on marriage vary widely. Some undemocratic countries won’t admit spouses of the “wrong” ethnicity and obviously this is no model for the UK and the UK’s rules are far superior to those of such countries. Other countries will more or less admit the spouse without further ado.

    The main western and non-EEA comparisons as regards numbers/demand would probably be the USA and Canada. That they have specific requirements doesn’t mean the UK should or should not have the same requirements. To my knowledge, they are both more liberal on spouse sponsorship that the UK changes. Either way, both admit migrants from the UK, as spouses and under other routes, the UK is a source country as well as a destination country.

    2. Neither nor. No entitlement to implement discriminatory rules like some undemocratic countries. But allowing genuine spouses (however that’s defined) to live together doesn’t mean opening borders. To my knowledge western countries with stricter rules don’t have less of a problem with sham marriages, that depends more on the extent to which authorities act and remove sham spouses etc.

    3. Agreed, forced marriage should be a crime. Forced marriages are not genuine marriages.

    4. Attempts to reduce migration shouldn’t impinge on rights. That would be a bit like reducing NHS costs by denying people medical attention for certain illnesses. It saves “the nation” money, just that some people have to miss out on some treatements or pay privately despite paying tax and NI. Admitedly an extreme example, but a comparable idea.

    If China and Japan don’t admit the spouses of their citizens, they are morally in the wrong, especially Japan. China is not a democracy so one can’t expect democratic standards from the Chinese government. An advantage for the UK if it is morally superior by making it easier for binational families to be together. Something the UK can be proud of.

    5. Agree entirely, as regards all migrants without a British spouse or child, ie those who don’t have a right to live there.

    No reason for the EEA rules to be held up as sacrosanct either, if/when there is more debate about a referendum on EU membership etc.

    However there are a few hundred thousand British citizens in other EEA countries, if they all needed to move back to the UK, that impact would need to be considered too. Again the UK is also a “provider” of migrants to other countries as well as a recipient of migrants.

  25. It’s rather odd if Indian commentators think Britain needs to be punished for the empire by opening her borders. Why would they want to travel to a nation of oppressors? I would not wish to travel to a country which I thought had oppressed my own. They also have a tiresome tendency to blame Britain for things where patently the larger share of blame lies elsewhere. Eg partition. Imagine if Napoleon had conquered Britain, and 150 years later a reforming French government had granted Britain independence. Suppose too they decided to give Scotland independence, but gave the job of drawing the border to some stuffed shirt who had never been north of Nice. Suppose he drew the border in the wrong place. Then everyone on the “wrong” side of the border got slaughtered. Whose fault would that have been? One might rebuke the French for a bad job in drafting the border, but the real blame for the slaughter would lie with the English and the Scots.

    But I digress. Thanks to Mutley for more thoughtful comments. Yes Britain is morally superior to the undemocratic brutal regimes. But you cannot excuse their behaviour because they are undemocratic. Do we lower our standards for countries which declare themselves undemocratic? If that were the English could simply declare themselves undemocratic and we would stop criticising them … Weird.

    Bear in mind though that Canada and the US are far, far less crowded than the UK (as is Australia, and indeed most other developed countries). As I pointed out before, for various reasons most migrants wish to settle in England, which is now seriously overcrowded.

    Indeed, if the EU collapses (as it is already economically) then a lot of the internal migration may be thrown into turmoil, meaning British might have to return to Britain as indeed those reliant on EU rules to stay in Britain may have to leave. This would all be the fault of extremely foolish decisions by the EU, of which the Euro is the most obvious.

    Ironically, of course, many English moved to Wales and elsewhere to escape multiculturalism, and faced exclusion and discrimination when they got to Wales, and often didn’t try to integrate on the Continent …

  26. Jay – I’m afraid it’s you who is twisting a simple straight forward debate by drifting from point to another and thus rendering it more incomprehensible for yourself. For instance, I asserted that ‘the difference between Extreme Toryism and Nazism is that of a degree than substance’. Now if you care to look at the social scale, you will find on it’s right hand side, Toryism, Extreme Toryism, Fascism/ Nazism. This progression denotes the fact that ultimately all extremes become unanimous by morphing into each other and thereby producing identical outcomes. Of course, the same is true in terms of Labour Socialism, Extreme Socialism leading to Communism/ Stalinism. These are historical facts that cannot be changed by getting one’s knickers in a twist.

    So the historical parallel is expressed in something like, ‘first they legislated against the Jews, then the Trade Unionists, Socialists and Communists and then the sick and the elderly because they were deemed ‘unproductive citizens’. Can you now really say, you cannot identify some semblance of gradual progression between the two ideologies sitting next to each other on the SoCial scale? Who is to say the Home Secretary would not go extremely further in the interest of immigration control for political purposes as well as for satisfaction of the popularized public prejudices.


    For your information, I am married into a family that suffered consequences of the holocaust. So please don’t give me this intimidatory nonsense about my safety if I met a survivor of the Nazi’s tyranny. I have spoken to many such families and they agree with me about the gradual progression from one extreme to another as described above.

    In addition, when did you go to Japan and was refused entry clearance through its, as you have put it,’brutal immigration control’? What if Theresa May next legislates, in the interests of immigration control of course that, henceforth all males of the Afrian and Asian origin should be castrated so as to limit the growth of population explosion or she may be more lenient and order the Cineses type of ‘one child per household’ which would indeed be legal,but would it be humane? Or is it beyond realms of reality?

    1. Aziz

      Keep on posting- if nothing else you keep me entertained during my lunch break at work.

  27. This is the slippery slope argument, which is not a very good one. A bit like saying if we criminalise x we will criminalise everything; or if we don’t criminalise x we will end up criminalising nothing. Suffice to say unless we have complete anarchy or a complete, North Korean style dictatorship we will always be on a slippery slope of one sort or another. It is pure (and distinctly unpleasant) fantasy to suggest that standard border controls on gaining passports by marriage – particularly when e is a known problem with false marriages and forced marriages in this country – has anything to do with racial or religious genocide. If the forced marriage prevention affects only people from one or two countries, it is because it is only those countries and their communities who have that practise. What is the government supposed to do? Pretend that middle clas Australians have an issue with forced marriage, to look like it is being even handed?

    In much the same fashion, female genital mutilation is practis only by a few minority communities in the UK. Is the state to ignore it for fear of being called racist? Is it racist to say that most football hooligans and Glaswegian knife criminals are white, which they undoubtedly are?

  28. Brian,
    Sorry I seem to have worded a part of my last post badly. I don’t mean to excuse the behaviour of undemocratic countries because they are undemocratic, not at all. On the contrary it is right that the UK and others seek to encourage democracy in places like Libya, Syria etc. Whether and when that should include military action is another subject altogether, but dictatorships shouldn’t be catered for in any way. Neither the UK nor other democracies should lower standards for them. Difficult with China, as a large and powerful country with nuclear and many other weapons, there’s no easy way to intervene so that the Chinese people can democratically elect a government and have a liberal democracy.

    Say for eg. a British and Russian citizen marry. There are clear economic reasons for the couple to choose to live in the UK. But Russia is not a full democracy, at least not one with western standards like the UK. If the UK admits the Russian spouse without issue, it allows the couple not only the economic advantages involved but also it allows them to live in a free modern democracy. So the UK wins, because it is the freer country. (Of course with specific exceptions, no protection for sham marriages and no admission for spouses who are dangerous violent criminals. But that won’t hinder the vast majority who can show they are genuine and who are no harm to other members of the public.)

    If the choice is, say, the UK or Belarus, that puts more pressure on the UK to admit the Belarus spouse because of the conditions the British spouse would face if required to live in that dictatorship to be with his/her spouse. That issue doesn’t arise if the choice is, say, the UK or Canada. But I don’t seek to excuse undemocratic countries behavour in any way. Rather it shows the UK as a democracy being superior to a dictatorship.

    I agree about population density. In parts of England in particular it is already very high, especially in Greater London. The same points apply especially to Belgium and the Netherlands whereas of course Canada and the US don’t have the issue. That and retention of existing forests and farmland are valid reasons for immigration control. I don’t see it as trumping the right of binational British/non-EEA couples to choose the UK, but it’s relevant to other categories and to such questions such as spouses remaining in the UK if the family relationship which led to admittance has ceased to exist. Certainly issues resulting from high population density are relevant to migration generally. (A difficult one. After a debatable amount of time spent legally in a country it’s reasonable to expert to have the certainty of being able to stay there, but obviously it’s not an absolute right and the government is free to make reasonable rules for settled status.)

    In the post war era the UK government chose to (arguably needed to) admit large numbers of migrants. Commonwealth citizens weren’t subject to immigration control until the 1960s. As a result of that there are many established ethnic minorities. It seems common throughout the world that many people including Europeans prefer to marry within their ethnic/cultural group, either way given that these minorities were admitted it’s inevitable that their family relationships will be a source of migration. That’s exactly the same in Switzerland (where I live), just that the source countries of the largest migrant groups are different, and of course in countries like France, Germany, Scandinavia etc.

    Globalisation is often taken to mean freedom of trade and capital but, apart from the EEA, not people. Despite that more people are moving between countries than ever before. In the west, temporary or circular/onward migration is becoming more common as a proportion of overall migration with people moving for work, studies, gap years and so on for a temporary period. On the one hand that reduces the relevance of issues relating to settlement as many will happily leave when they’ve done what they came to do. One the other hand there is more personal international contact than in past decades. I suspect that family migration will therefore become more common as time goes on and at least one of the two countries the family members come from has to admit the others, otherwise the family is split. So my inclination is to separate the issue from migration generally.

    I agree with Aziz on polical extremes, some Tory ideas are very right wing, though not nazi. However the further from the centre, the closer to extremes. Government and BNP style policies are of course very different but there shouldn’t be any catering to those who might otherwise vote BNP. I also agree with Brian on forced marriage and female genital mutilation. As those are more common in certain countries/communities, investigations should conecntrate on them, just as all investigations of crime tend to concentrate on groups considered more likely to be committing the crime in question. That’s not racist and shouldn’t be avoided for reasons of political correctness. It can be difficult to detect a forced marriage from documents and interviews if the victim is frightened and covers up the fact that they were forced. So how to investigate and when to act are difficult questions and I don’t have any useful knowledge on how best to go about that. But a way should be devised which will not stand in the way of those seen to be genuine, there is of course the usual presumption of innocent until proven guilty, but at the same time provide for quick removal of anyone found guilty in court of partaking in or assisting forced marriages. Probably easier said than done, unfortunately.

  29. Thanks for your comments. Actually there is not a lot of ground between us. I would note though that the BNP is primarily drawn from disillusioned Labour supporters – as I said in one of my earlier posts, it is the traditional white working class who lose their jobs to immigrants much more than the middle class, and it is also the white working class who has to compete with housing and who finds their children’s schools filled with non-English speaking immigrants.

    You can see this by the areas in which the BNP gains support – Barking and Dagenham for example have never, ever had a significant Tory vote, not even close. Rather they are part of the Old Labour heartland.

    It does interest me how in other countries eg New Zealand immigration is favoured by the right for economic reasons, and opposed by the left for social reasons – dilution of national culture, creation of ethnic ghettos/enclaves, pressure on natural resources and the environment etc. All these factors apply more strongly in the UK, especially England, which we agree is very overcrowded by Western standards. And we still have the question that if the majority of British citizens oppose large-scale immigration, should the government act on this?

  30. Is Albanian spouses affected by the new rule has a cooperating country to the EEC ?

    1. Albanian applicants are affected by the new rules. If you mean EU association agreements, these don’t equate to being EEA nationals.

  31. Yes, there’s not that much between us, I dare say if we were coalition partners we could find a compromise we’re both happy with.

    I might have an over-simplistic picture in my head, no restrictions for genuine couples and parents of British children whilst restricting other categories based on population density and environmental issues, job opportunities or lack thereof, availability of infrastructure etc. But if these controls were too strict, maybe that would cause more sham marriages which is not in anyone’s interests. I doubt there’s a perfect solution.

    Thanks for the info on the BNP, I’ve never looked closely at who votes for them, where, why etc. It’s logical though that it primarily affects white working class people. Also migrants in categories such as former tier 1 general and the current tier 2 work routes seem by the demographics less likely to come into contact with working class areas and with BNP voters.

    If the majority of British citizens oppose large scale migration then yes the government should act on that, just as it should always act in the interests of the majority of voters. But never to the detriment of the rights of the minority, no dictatorship by majority. (I’m not suggesting there’s anything dictatorial in the UK,the phrase sounds extreme but is applicable as a phrase, so to speak.) In other words the wishes of the majority shouldn’t lead to an individual Briton being unable to have a genuine spouse come to the UK. The limits which should exist, such as the exclusion of dangerous criminals, serve society. The will of the majority is indeed a reason to limit immigration, if looking at all migration, but not to keep genuine couples apart. But as you say, there’s not that much between us.

    I’m not familiar at all with New Zealand politics, just some EEA countries and when I get around to it a bit about Canada and the US. But I think there you may have hit the nail on the head with your point about population density. Canada and the US are, as far as I know, entirely self-sufficient with food supply (or could be) and there is no shortage of land, open space, for residents. The population can increase substantially without threatening open space and the environment in the way it can in England and some other parts of Europe. There are issues of overcrowded cities within the US and Canada, but that involves a lot more issues than just migrants choosing the big citiies. I assume it’s the same in New Zealand, it’s about the size of the UK but will less than 10% of the population.

    So when the economy is booming it’s easy to be pro-immigration for economic reasons. The only problem of course is times like now where unemployment increases due to the overall economic situation. That being temporary and not caused by migration, it’s not a reason against migration. So the right there has it easy if economic reasons.

    Here in Switzerland the right talks most about immigrants and integration and crime and other negative topics but do indeed support the non-EEA work permit quotas. The left is more tolerant of migration issues, though not really in favour of increasing numbers. Being much smaller than England and largely mountains, there are similar issues about high population density but it’s mainly the issues raised by the right which are raised. I vaguely remember reading that Canadian PM Harper wants to be tougher about overstayers, fraudulent applications and sham marriages etc. But then he wants to be tough about a lot of issues, it seems. Large cuts to migration don’t seem to be proposed, again probably an economic consideration because otherwise it would be something else to be tough on.

  32. Thanks looks like there is no hope for me and my husband then so don’t know what the future holds .

  33. After many days of worry and despair I have decided although I earn well under the new threshold I am still going to make our application. I will read every immigration law book in the land and go through every appeal process available to be with my husband . I refuse to lie down and let a bunch of bigots break up my family no matter how much pain or anguish it causes me . If we dont fight this god knows what they will implement next .

  34. the above comment about May’s evil and draconian policies about it targetting only asians is counter productive in our fight against these inhumane policies of Cameroan , Green and May , It affects applicants from most non EU countries ( some do not have to take the english test and that is discrimination) and my partner is from Russia for example . mentioning race and not just basic injustice and unfairness ( cameron’s favourite word but not used in family immigration matters !!! ) only gives ammunition to those in the UK who are evil rascists . Yes, the UK government with support of Lib Dems think that pandering to the rascists will bring more votes at next ele3ction which is why we must focus on the unfairness and heartlessness of the policies and ask our MPs how they woule feel if they had a NON EU partner who they could not live with in the UK because the partner did not overcome the obstacles placed before her or him !!