11 Jun 2012

Immigration rules will stop 30,000 relatives moving to UK

Theresa May wants to put Britain’s economy and safety ahead of family rights in the latest government threat to immigrants, UK residents and human rights guaranteed by law.

Theresa May wants to put Britain's economy and safety ahead of family rights in the latest government threat to immigrants, UK residents and human rights guaranteed by law.

The Home Secretary maintains there is no absolute right to family life in the UK and she will ask MPs to back her today by passing a parliamentary motion, pressuring judges to consider economic and public order before rights to family life – a right guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.

“In the interests of the economy or controlling migration or public order, those sorts of issues, the state has a right to qualify the right to a family life,” Ms May told BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday. If judges don’t comply, the government will consider legislating changes.

But lawyers say Ms May’s “motion” has no force and no practical application other than to pressure judges whose job is to apply the law independent of parliament.

“A law amending the human rights act or the proper application of judicial thinking or approach to human rights issues would almost certainly be contrary to the convention,” London-based public and immigration lawyer Jawaid Luqmani told Channel 4 News.

Ms May‘s comments come weeks before the UK introduces “financial independence” rules that will make it difficult for tens of thousands of immigrants to bring their families to join them in Britain.

As of July, immigrants will have to earn £18,600 or more to bring in a non-EU foreign spouse, rising to £27,200 for three children. The probationary period for non-EU spouses rises from two years to five. Elderly relatives who will become a burden on the NHS or social welfare will be banned.

Right to family life

The right to a family life is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, however, so any new UK legislation forcing judges to consider the government’s priorities would be a direct challenge to British judges and European law.

Some analysts suspect Ms May’s “motion” is rhetoric to boost the government’s profile in the midst of economic chaos, trouble with extraditing terrorist suspects and rancour within the police department over Ms May’s handling of the force.

“The motion may be a salvo to seek to reassure the public or elements of the public who are convinced that the human rights provisions are a charter for wrong doers to remain unpunished or to remain in the UK in all cases,” Mr Luqmani told Channel 4 News.

Challenge to democracy

“In a democratic state where judges are appointed to act independently of government, it is inconceivable that the secretary of state should be seeking to remove the independent judicial thinking,” he added. “I would hope that many judges will be able to remain oblivious to the threat.”

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “We will shortly be announcing a major overhaul of the existing family migration rules, to reduce burdens on the taxpayer, promote integration and tackle abuse.”

The reforms are also designed to protect the public from foreign criminals who try to abuse human rights laws to avoid deportation.

“We plan to make it clear when the rights of the law abiding majority will outweigh a foreign criminal’s right to family and private life,” he said.