Last week I wrote about a new report, contributed to by Liberal Democrats Sarah Teather and Sally Hamwee, which outlined the heartbreak and suffering the new family migration rules are causing. The income threshold of £18,600 with extra for each child, and the narrow methods by which this is calculated is stopping many people from being able to live with their spouses in this country.
Earlier this week, four Liberal Democrat MPs took part in a Westminster Hall debate to try to persuade Home Office minister Mark Hunter of the inequity of these plans. Here are some extracts from their speeches.
Sarah Teather first turned her attention to the welfare of children caught up in this and perhaps separated from a parent:
That is not to mention the hidden costs, which were highlighted by hon. Members in a number of interventions—the costs that are incurred by refusing someone permission to come to the UK. The obvious ones that we heard about during our inquiry were around caring burdens, particularly if the person who is here in the UK has some health problems, or if they have very young children and they have been separated from their partner. They might be able to go back to work if their partner was here in the UK to share child care. Without the partner, however, it is much more difficult.
Then there are the obvious things that the rest of government knows about. For example, if people are separated from their partner and families are divided up, the effects on mental health and on children failing to bond with one parent or another have a wide-ranging impact on behaviour and educational attainment. Of course, none of those more subtle things is taken into account either.
She then went on to talk about the unfairness of the rules regarding bringing in sick family members. They have an inherent Catch 22. If you have too little money, you won’t be able to do so. However, if you have enough money, you will be told that you can pay for care in their home country. That completely ignores the need for families to be together at these sorts of times, giving each other comfort and support. Sarah said that the new rule had been described to her as a ban masquerading as a rule:
Almost nobody will meet those criteria. One lawyer said that he had been thinking through all the possible scenarios and the only example that he came up with where somebody might meet such criteria was if they had an elderly dependent relative in Monaco and had enough money here to meet the first part of the rules, but because care is so expensive in Monaco they would not be able to afford to pay for it there. That would probably be the only way we would allow such people to come to the UK. If we are going to have a ban, let us at least be more honest about it.
Julian Huppert intervened while she was speaking to make the point that we were losing good people from Britain because they weren’t able to bring their spouses in:
The response of a number of people in my constituency has been simply to leave the country. These are successful entrepreneurs, those at early stages of what will be well-paid careers, and people coming back, as the hon. Lady said. We risk losing some of our best people, who are internationally experienced, as a result of the rules.
Dan Rogerson elaborated on this in his remarks, citing examples from his constituency:
In another case, a woman who was born in the Caribbean married a British man. She had children here, and she has been here for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, the marriage came to an end. A number of years later, she got back in touch with someone from her home country. They formed a relationship, and they have married, which is a source of great happiness to them and her family, because she has children and a grandchild in this country. However, if the couple are to live together, she will have to leave her children and her grandchild, taking away the support that she could offer them as a grandparent, and return with her new husband to the country in which they grew up.
Sir Alan Beith also made the point that the problem is worse in his constituency where wages are lower than in the south east:
That fact has led people in my constituency to say—although this would not suit the hon. Gentleman’s area—that there should be some regional recognition of the fact that in low-wage areas, the problem is even worse.
This gives us an insight into the problems our MPs are hearing about every day. Sadly, the Minister just didn’t get it so more work is required to get these rules changed. If you feel that this system is unfair, the Migrants’ Rights Network has a letter for supporters to sign. They are also organising a Day of Action in Westminster on 9th July, the first anniversary of the rule change.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings