Children's commissioner to investigate impact of family immigration rules

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Office of the Children's Commissioner for England has launched an investigation into the harm family immigration rule changes are causing to children.

The government brought in tougher family immigration rules in 2012 including a minimum income threshold for UK residents wanting to bring a non-EU partner or other family member into the country.

But children’s commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson is concerned the rule changes have kept families apart unfairly and is having a detrimental impact on children’s lives.

She says she has already received a “significant amount of moving correspondence from parents" detailing the impact that the new rules have had on their family life and their children in particular.

In launching an investigation she said: “On the evidence I have seen, I consider that the family migration rules need to undergo a thorough and formal review in order to ensure that the best interests of children are a primary consideration.”

The first stage of her investigation is the launch of a consultation among families affected by the rule changes. The deadline for submissions is 1 September.

The investigation will then look at the effect of the rule changes on children’s rights and the economy. A final phase will involve an in-depth study with families affected.

The investigation has been welcomed by campaign groups and families.

Among these is Jamie Dhoowooh, whose Mauritian husband is unable to live in the UK with her and their two young children as her income falls around £2,000 short of the £18,600 minimum income threshold.

She said: “When my eldest daughter, who will be two in September, wants to speak to her daddy she just points to the computer because that’s how she has to do it now. He hasn’t even met our youngest daughter, who is six months old.”

Sonel Mehta, trustee of campaign group BritCits, said of the rule changes: “They make a mockery of family values and violate the sanctity of marriage in causing the separating of families, keeping our citizens in exile and forcing British children unnecessarily into a single-parent upbringing.”

She added that in many cases the foreign spouse’s earnings are ignored under the current guidelines. Other hurdles families face include tougher English language requirements.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution. But family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense and family migrants must be able to integrate if they are to play a full part in British life. The minimum income threshold is achieving those objectives.”

He added that the government will consider the findings of the Office of the Children's Commissioner's investigation when it is published. He also pointed out that the Court of Appeal upheld the lawfulness of the minimum income threshold in a ruling made in July.

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