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Crime and Courts Bill


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Scythe being sharpened
Sharpening Her Scythe by Alexandre Dulaunoy, on Flickr

As has been widely reported in the mainstream media, the Government proposes to scrap family visitor appeal rights. Again. The change is intended to come into full effect in 2014 but as early as July 2012 the definition of ‘family’ will be narrowed to exclude cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces or nephews. See the press release here. The full abolition is to be effected in yet another piece of legislation with a title that cements the subliminal link between crime and immigration, the Crime and Courts Bill.

The justification is cost saving at both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. Appeal fees were introduced last December so increasing those would be another way of addressing that particular issue at the MOJ. Presenting Officers are like hen’s teeth at the moment and are never instructed for family visit appeals as far as I can ascertain, so fighting the appeals isn’t exactly costing a lot at the Home Office either.

In addition the Government proposes to curtail in-country appeal rights against decisions to vary a person’s leave where in the Home Office’s view it is not conducive to the public good for the person to have leave to enter or remain in the UK and to increase Immigration Officer powers yet further.

Those with long memories, or like me who read this recent Guardian article by Alan Travis, will remember that visitor appeal rights were last abolished by Ken Clarke under the last Conservative government back in the 1990s on the basis that they were not a matter of life or death The right of appeal was restored by Labour as a manifesto commitment.

Any lawyers serious about fighting this change should consider joining ILPA and contributing to the lobbying effort. But, despite Damien Green’s revolting comments about family visit appeals being “an absolute goldmine for immigration lawyers”, it won’t be the lawyers who suffer. This should do our judicial review practices no end of good, as an application for judicial review will be the only means by which a visit visa refusal can be challenged in future. It is ethnic minorities who will lose out as their relatives are denied visas to visit for weddings, funerals and other family events. Family is important to this Government, as long as your family isn’t foreign.

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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.


3 Responses

  1. The potential long term impact of this provision is of concern in light of the family migration consultation proposal that future applicants for a spouse visa will have to have previously visited the UK – a proposal justified on the basis that it is a big step to move to a new country.

    The combination of the two measures would eventually lead to mandatory refusal of many spouse applications (unless the applicant has been able to come to the UK in another capacity) – and a potential increase in costly judicial review and appeal litigation on human rights / EU Citizenship grounds.

    The minister introducing the Bill made a s19 declaration of compatibility – but what of the UK based family members who wish overseas nationals to visit them in the UK? Are they not entitled to have their rights determined before an independent and impartial tribunal?

  2. This is yet another example of how this government conducts ideology-based rather than evidence-based policy. Green cites the high number of appeals as if this was an evidence of abuse and not of UKBA failing to get the decision right the first time: something for which they’ve been criticized many times by John Vine.

    I also did not see any evidence why family visits are a problem: do a large number of visitors overstay? Why doesn’t Green admit that they just don’t know?

    Why is there any need to narrow the definition of family members? I am 99% certain they don’t know what proportion of visas go to other family members because they are all recorded in the same category.

    Green’s comparison with other countries is equally annoying: he seems only to be interested in negative examples from other jurisdictions. No other country leaves UASCs without guardians (at least in theory) but that does not seem to bother him.