British families are being hit hard by the changes to immigration law states a report published today. The research has been conducted by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and academics specialising in migration at Middlesex University. A change in immigration law in 2012 stipulated that in order to bring their family to live with them in the UK, the partner legally residing in the UK had to earn a minimum of £18,600 per year, (with an additional increase of £2,400 per child) to be able to sponsor a partner from outside the EEA (European Economic Area). Prior to this, sponsors still had to prove that they could support their family, but there was no specific threshold they had to meet.
The report, which was commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner for England, argues that as result of the change to immigration law, there has been a marked increase in the number of families living in single-parent households through forced separation.
The report estimates that 15,000 children (79% of whom were British citizens), have been affected, with many found to have experienced issues with “distress and anxiety as a result of separation from a parent”. Anne Longfield from the Children’s Commissioner for England stated that the disruption to the family unit was impacting on educational attainment, personal development and the general well-being of children involved.
She also noted how the immigration policy disregards the regional differences in income levels across the UK. Having a fixed threshold does not take into consideration the fact that earnings in the capital and the south of England are been significantly higher than many parts of the UK, particularly the former industrial cities.
The report highlights how the legal change to the ‘family migration rules’ as a huge impact on the children involved, whose interests are not being considered by the immigration rules when the decision is made to separate families based on fiscal inadequacies. “This must surely be an unintended consequence but one that must now be urgently addressed”, Legal and Policy Director at JCWI Saira Grant argues.
To take these findings further, Migrants Right Network call for the threshold to be reduced to £13,182, the same level as the National Minimum Wage with consideration made for the resources that different families will have access to based on regional factors. Through this, the amount required for living in the UK for migrants would match that of UK nationals.