Government's Plans to Reduce Migration Net

home office, family, appeal 14 July 2011

As each Government has pledged whilst in power and little succeeded, the current Government has also pledged to tackle the ongoing issue of migration in the UK. In June 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May vowed to reduce net migration into the UK by over 50%.

Strongly supporting this vow is Immigration Minister Damian Green, as he revealed proposals to introduce tougher measures for those wishing to enter into the UK in an attempt to eliminate 'abuse' of the Family Visa route and reduce the taxpayer's expenses on their behalf.

"Our message is clear - we will not tolerate abuses if you cannot support your foreign spouse or partner, you cannot expect the taxpayer to do it for you."

Already action has been taken in a bid to implement the Government's promises, has seen a reduction in the number of migrants entering the UK by limiting the number of overseas student visas. The overall result should minimise the number of applicants seeking Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The latest Home Office report dated July 2011 provides statistics that applicants seeking to enter the UK through the family migrant route, in particular spousal applications, were granted Indefinite Remain to Leave in over 90% of cases in 2010.

Critics including the Migration Observatory are sceptic that the changes proposed would greatly reduce the number of migrants as Article 8 provides a 'loophole' and allows a family to stay as a whole unit whilst having committed a breach. They argue that the Government is restricted and 'limited changes' would occur due to human rights issues.

Article 8, right to respect for family life, has previously been used as a defence to deportation for individuals who have been residing in the UK illegally. The government wants to seek a redress and creaite a balance; the use of the article is described as a 'key part' in reducing the net migration. Although their seems to be little support to reword the article itself there is cause for concern that many challenges will be made. Politicians have argued that if a matter of public interest has arisen it should outweigh the right to respect for family life of an individual.

"...too many times where we have seen Article 8 used to place the rights of criminals and illegal migrants above the rights of the British public."

The difficult task in creating this balance could result in tougher English language tests for individuals seeking to enter on a family visa and higher income thresholds for spouses, partners and dependants to reduce the risk of seeking benefits from public funding. Non EU family members could be denied access to welfare benefits for up to five years increasing the current eligibility threshold by three years, resulting in more applications failing on this basis alone.

Calls to revise the appeal system to reduce the number of appeals and whether if at all, the appeal right should be attached for family visit visas possibly eliminating appeals based on race discrimination and ECHR grounds.

It remains to be seen what changes are to be implemented and the effect it may have on migrants wishing to settle in the UK. It appears that the proposals could face many legal challenges whilst having a limited effect on the reduction of the net migration.

* All quotes from Damian Green Immigration Minister.

Garth Coates Solicitors