Habib Rahman, Chief Executive of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said during the coming year the organisation will focus on campaigning against the Government’s restrictions on family migration.
Speaking at the JCWI’s AGM in London last night, Mr Rahman said the Immigration Rule changes, in particular the minimum £18,600 income requirement to bring in a non-EU spouse or partner, introduced by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in July were dividing families and hitting British perople as well as foreigners.
Mr Rahman also referred to an article in yesterday’s Evening Standard “Tough New Visa Rules put Foreign Students off London”, where an unlikely ally Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson called on Prime Minister David Cameron to remove students from net migration targets.
Speaking in India, Johnson accused the Government of causing “unnecessary alarm” with tough immigration rules, which have already resulted in a 9% fall in student visas, expected to rise to 25% next year.
Last week the outspoken London Mayor strongly criticised his own party’s target to slash net immigration, claiming that visa policies were preventing the City and universities from recruiting the brightest talent, and were “a block to growth”.
One of the guest speakers at the meeting was Emma Ben Moussa, a British bride of a Moroccan husband, who has just given birth to their first child nine weeks ago.
Emma tried to live in Morocco with her husband, but found the life hard and had no chance of finding well paid employment. She returned to her home in Kent this year during the middle of a complicated pregnancy, but could not return to her job as a store manager at WH Smith.
The couple found themselves caught in the £18,600 trap and even if she returned to work immediately she would not be able to show 6 months payslips required to sponsor him on a spouse visa. Her husband’s prospective income cannot be taken into account or the fact that she would be able to work full time if he could be here to look after the baby.
They obtained a visit visa after what Emma described as a very difficult experience dealing with the British Embassy in Casablanca, Morocco.
The JCWI are currently helping the couple to stay together in the UK and have submitted an “outside the Rules” application for further leave to remain. Should this be refused, her case will almost certainly go to appeal and could end up as a test case in the High Court.
The second speaker, Professor Eleonore Kofman of Middlesex University, highlighted the discriminatory nature of the new Rules, which will adversely affect 61% of women, double the rate of men, due to lower earnings.
Professor Kofman noted that it was not just the arbitrary £18,600 income requirement which was splitting families. Other restrictions contained in the Rules include not allowing a partner’s prospective earnings to be taken into account and length of time needed to prove income.
She said the UK was now the second hardest country to sponsor a spouse after Norway.
Raza Husein QC offered some hope pointing to two upcoming cases challenging the Rules in the Upper Tribunal and High Court early next year.
Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, said the Rule changes were rushed through by the Executive without a vote or proper Parliamentary scrutiny.
He was disappointed that a “Negative Prayer” or objection laid down in Parliament was only signed by 7 MP’s.
Corbyn said it was easy for the Government to be “tough” on poor migrant families and reminded us that the UK was built on immigration and would be a “wet and insular little island” without it.
Referring to the London Metropolitan University’s licence revocation, which is in his constituency, he claimed that the UKBA had not acted rationally and had done spot checks on overseas students during the holidays.
The meeting ended with a lively question and answer session in which Habib Rahman defended JCWI’s record of campaigning against the UKBA’s onslaught on private colleges and international students.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) is an independent national charity which campaigns for justice in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law and policy.
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