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New report highlights harm caused to families by the minimum income requirement
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Reunite Families UK, a lived experience organisation, have published a timely new report looking at the negative mental health impact of family separation caused by the immigration rules, particularly the minimum income requirement. The research looks at the current position, which is shortly to become considerably worse when the increase to the minimum income requirement comes into force next year.
The key findings are that the requirements create single parent families, disproportionately affecting mothers and impose a very high economic, social and emotional burden on families. The rules have a discriminatory effect as women, young people and those living outside of London are more likely to struggle to meet the minimum income requirement. Overall, the rules make it more difficult for mixed nationality families to integrate into society.
The impact on children is particularly disturbing, as 92% of parents who responded to the survey reported their children suffering from a range of mental health problems including selective mutism, night terrors, eating disorders, loss of hope and other behavioural and emotional issues, as well as suicidal ideation.
The report also found that the financial hardship and lengthy separation caused by the rules and the application fees has resulted in marriage breakdown for some people, this has then led to children losing contact with one parent. Some children from Reunite Family UK’s membership have never met one of their parents.
The case studies are a useful reminder, if needed, that there are families who have already been separated for lengthy periods as they work to try to earn enough to meet the minimum income threshold. For example we are told of Raquel, a British woman who married her husband Manoel in Brazil where they had two children. For a variety of reasons they decided to move to the UK and Raquel went first with their two boys, expecting no more than a six month separation from Manoel and his older daughter.
Over four years later the family remains separated. Raquel was made redundant during the pandemic and has been struggling to reach the minimum income threshold as well as to pay the visa fees. The need to save for the application fees has made visits to Brazil a luxury they cannot afford, with the result that the boys have only seen their father once in the past four years. This has left the eldest child suffering from separation anxiety. Both the threshold and the fees will be dramatically increased in the near future, meaning there is no reprieve in sight for this family.
Several practical recommendations are made, such as reducing the six months earnings period that is taken into account for meeting the threshold down to three months. They have also recommended that people who are in the ten year route and then switch into the five year route are permitted to count the earlier period of leave towards the five years they need to be eligible for settlement. Another recommendation is that fees are kept to the cost of processing applications and the immigration health surcharge should not be charged to applicants who are paying tax and national insurance contributions.
This government has made it clear that they only intend to make life more difficult for mixed nationality families, however hopefully the next government will see the sense in progressing most, if not all, of these recommendations.