Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Written evidence submitted by Reunite Families UK (ISSB39)

Reunite Families UK is a campaign group aimed at supporting families who are separated from a spouse or partner; or live in exile or in another country in order not to separate their family unit. We are campaigning for a fairer immigration system in the UK that will change current policies to mean families can be reunited and live together in the UK.

The new Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill is proposed to end free movement of people and guarantee the rights of Irish citizens. Its purpose is not to set future immigration rules, but to define the main principles of the future immigration system. Therefore, the Bill is an opportunity to enshrine in primary legislation some of the fundamental principles of how citizens should be treated. Despite not dealing with non-EU nationals as such, by ending free movement the Bill spreads the draconian non-EU family migration rules to EU citizens and thus the rules require urgent reconsideration.

In 2012 Rt Hon. Theresa May introduced the minimum income requirement (MIR) that bars close to 40% of the UK’s working population from being joined by a non-UK spouse, should they wish to live with them in the UK. [1] The rules have not been voted for by MPs nor were they pledged in election manifestos.

Before implementing the new family migration rules the Home Office commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to set the MIR figure. In its 2011 report the MAC goes out of its way to say that the proposed MIR figures are purely an economic assessment that does not take into account social, ethical or legal implications. [2] The very notion of the MIR has been introduced purely by the framing of the MAC’s commission.

In 2015 the damning report issued by the Children’s Commissioner for England revealed that at the time of publication there were estimated 15,000 UK children separated from a non-UK parent or stranded abroad solely because of the MIR. [3]

In February 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of State could set the MIR in principle but that certain aspects of it were found to be inconsistent with the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) and in neglect of the statutory duties of the State towards children. [4]

There has formed a consensus between all the main UK political parties, bar the Conservatives, for a case of scrapping the MIR. The SNP immigration spokesperson Rt Hon. Stuart McDonald and the Green Party leader Rt Hon. Caroline Lucas have been making calls to scrap the MIR since 2015. The Labour front bench adopted the policy of abolishing the MIR and differentiating between migrant labour and family attachment in their 2017 manifesto. [5] Even the Liberal Democrats, who were in coalition government when the MIR come into force, issued a statement through their Home Affairs spokesperson Rt Hon. Edward Davey describing the MIR implementation as one of the worst coalition decisions made. [6]


The nationally representative ICM research on attitudes towards immigration released by the British Future and Hope Not Hate in autumn 2018 found that just 12% of respondents disagreed with the statement ‘UK citizens should be allowed to bring in immediate family (eg. spouse/partner, children under 18) irrespective of their income, as long as they can support themselves and provide housing.’ [7]

Perversely, and in spite of the MAC being clear the MIR disregards social, ethical and legal consequences, the Supreme Court ruling that aspects of the MIR were unlawful, the cross-party consensus about scrapping it and the absolute lack of support for the MIR in the only national survey conducted about it, the Home Office’s representatives and Conservative MPs continue to quote the MAC, the Supreme Court and public opinion as sources of its legitimacy.

Despite being in breach of the UK domestic legislation (Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 and the HRA) and international conventions the UK is part of (UNCRC and ECHR), the MIR has been allowed to exist for over six years. In August 2017 the Home Office made a few tweaks in the rules to create an appearance that it complied with the Supreme Court’s orders. Removing protections and provisions stipulated within the HRA has been a stated motivation for Rt Hon. Theresa May as a Home Secretary when making calls to repeal the HRA.

The recent estimate of the total number of families unable to meet the MIR by the Migration Observatory is between 24,000 and 94,000 over six years. [8]

With the Bill ending free movement, these numbers will drastically swell as the rules will also start covering the EU settled migrants wishing to bring in their non-UK immediate families and British citizens in the EU wishing to come back home with their loved ones. At present it is almost impossible for a British citizen who has been living abroad to come back to the UK with their non-EU spouse and children without being separated from them for at least eight months, even if they meet the MIR.

The state of affairs described above is a disturbing example of how the Home Office is able to defy the law, ethics, opposition of Parliament and civil society groups as well as the opinion of the government’s own agencies to continue appealing to the darkest fringes of the political spectrum. Considering that it has been impossible to force the government to tangibly change the rules, even after the Supreme Court ruling, it is vital that Parliament adopts an amendment scrapping the MIR. Along with ending free movement and securing rights of Irish citizens in the UK it is crucial that Parliament protects the right to respect for family life for British citizens and settled migrants and ensures the rules comply with the duty of the State to safeguard and promote the welfare of UK children.

Right now, there is a pivotal opportunity to prevent future suffering for families of settled EU citizens and British citizens with non-UK families returning home from the EU. Not to mention ending the continuing agony for British citizens and settled migrants with non-EU spouses and children. The family migration rules set by the Home Office in violation of international and domestic law and without parliamentary scrutiny should no longer be allowed to exist.


There have been many calls including from the Conservative party benches to exclude students from the net migration target, whilst British citizens and their immediate families who are mistakenly restricted by the rule, are forgotten. It is also concerning that much of the government led debate about immigration is focused on migrant workers, either skilled or unskilled, while family migration is pushed to the fringes of the discourse. The Home Office refuses to truly differentiate between economic and family migration. In fact, the government’s White paper was named "Future Skills-based Immigration System". The title ignores the very concept of family migration and ever globalising trends where people meet, get married and build family lives with people from other countries, more than ever before in history. In the few passages where the White paper does mention family migration there is an obstinate commitment to continued violation of the principles expressed in the HRA and Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

This issue affects a small number of British families as a percentage of population, though this number will grow with the addition of British-EU families. But at stake here is the principle that British citizens are allowed to build a family life, in their country of birth, with their partner of choice irrespective of their social, ethnic or economic background. To deny such a huge swathe of the population the right to build a real family life with their legal spouse clearly defies the British principles of fair play and personal freedom.

It is disappointing that the original amendment 33, in clause 4, page 3, line 10, to the Bill proposed by Rt Hon. Stuart McDonald about scrapping the MIR covers EU family members only. As Rt Hon. Caroline Nokes pointed out this would create a dual family migration system and discriminate against non-EU family members which will not be seen in a uniformly positive way by British citizens and settled persons. We hope the new amendment is proposed to repeal the MIR using this Bill for all, both EU and non-EU family members.

Works cited

Children’s Commissioner for England, Family Friendly? The impact on children of the Family Migration Rules: A review of the financial requirements (London, 2015) https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CCO-Family-Friendly-Report-090915.pdf

Hilary Term, ’Judgment (on the application of MM (Lebanon)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Abdul Majid (Pakistan)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Master AF) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Shabana Javed (Pakistan)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) SS (Congo) (Appellant) v Entry Clearance Officer, Nairobi (Respondent)’, [2017] UKSC 10, On appeals from: [2014] EWCA Civ 985 and [2015] EWCA Civ 387 (London, 2017) https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0011-judgment.pdf

Jessica Elgot, We were wrong to go along with Tories on immigration – senior Lib Dem, 2018

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/30/we-were-wrong-to-go-along-with-tories-on-immigration-senior-lib-dem

Jill Rutter and Rosie Carter, ‘National Conversation on Immigration – Final report’, British Future and HOPE not hate. (London, 2018) http://www.britishfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Final-report.National-Conversation.17.9.18.pdf

Madeleine Sumption and Carlos Vargas-Silva, ’Report: The Minimum Income Requirement for Non-EEA Family Members in the UK’, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. (27 Jan. Oxford, 2016)

https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Report-Minimum_Family_Income.pdf

Migration Advisory Committee, Review of the minimum income requirement for sponsorship under the family migration route (London, 2011) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/286548/Family_report_Final.pdf

The Labour Party, Manifesto 2017 (London, 2017) https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, How many people have been prevented from bringing a partner to the UK due to the £18,600 minimum income requirement? (14 Dec. Oxford, 2018)

https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/commentaries/how-many-people-have-been-prevented-from-bringing-a-partner-to-the-uk-due-to-the-18600-minimum-income-requirement/

March 2019


[1] Madeleine Sumption and Carlos Vargas-Silva, ’Report: The Minimum Income Requirement for Non-EEA Family Members in the UK’, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford. (27 Jan. Oxford, 2016)

[1] https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Report-Minimum_Family_Income.pdf, p. 10

[2] Migration Advisory Committee, Review of the minimum income requirement for sponsorship under the family migration route (London, 2011) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/286548/Family_report_Final.pdf, p. 73

[3] Children’s Commissioner for England, Family Friendly? The impact on children of the Family Migration Rules: A review of the financial requirements (London, 2015) https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/CCO-Family-Friendly-Report-090915.pdf, p. 114

[4] Hilary Term, ’Judgment (on the application of MM (Lebanon)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Abdul Majid (Pakistan)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Master AF) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) R (on the application of Shabana Javed (Pakistan)) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) SS (Congo) (Appellant) v Entry Clearance Officer, Nairobi (Respondent)’, [2017] UKSC 10, On appeals from: [2014] EWCA Civ 985 and [2015] EWCA Civ 387 (London, 2017) https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0011-judgment.pdf, p. 37 and p. 39

[5] The Labour Party, Manifesto 2017 (London, 2017) https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/labour-manifesto-2017.pdf, p. 28

[6] Jessica Elgot, We were wrong to go along with Tories on immigration – senior Lib Dem, 2018

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/30/we-were-wrong-to-go-along-with-tories-on-immigration-senior-lib-dem

[7] Jill Rutter and Rosie Carter, ‘National Conversation on Immigration – Final report’, British Future and HOPE not hate. (London, 2018) http://www.britishfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Final-report.National-Conversation.17.9.18.pdf , p. 63

[8] The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, How many people have been prevented from bringing a partner to the UK due to the £18,600 minimum income requirement? (14 Dec. Oxford, 2018)

[8] https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/commentaries/how-many-people-have-been-prevented-from-bringing-a-partner-to-the-uk-due-to-the-18600-minimum-income-requirement/

 

Prepared 6th March 2019