On Wednesday, the government announced their intentions to introduce a minimum income threshold for British citizens seeking to sponsor a spouse, partner or dependent’s move to the UK.
These plans could potentially see the unemployed and those earning under £5,000 a year being banned from sponsoring migration to the UK. While, also proposing an increase (two to five years) in the probation period required for spouses and partners being able to apply for settlement in Britain.
Immigration Minister, Damian Green, has claimed that these proposals are intended to end abuses to the system. Adding, “If you can’t support your foreign spouse or partner, you cannot expect the taxpayer to do it for you.” Some might argue that this stance is one that is tough but fair and shows the Coalition acting on the issue of immigration.
Although, is this really the case? In 2010, around 49,000 visas were granted via family migration, which is clearly a significant number. However, out of these 49,000, the Oxford University-based Migration Observatory estimates that, only around 8,000 migration cases would be affected by the proposed reforms.
This is a relatively small number of cases and when dispersed throughout Britain seems to suggest that while nationally this plan would have a nominal affect on immigration levels, the impact on some families could be distinctly greater. In fact, not only could British citizens be technically limited in their choice of partner, but also vulnerable families could be ripped apart.
For a government seemingly so intent on instilling this idea of the ‘family’, in a traditional idealistic sense, not the modern reality, it does seem rather strange that a policy that could keep poorer citizens away from their families is seen as the answer to immigration concerns. Should wealth really dictate migration chances? Even more, should wealth dictate happiness?
Putting this concern aside, arguably, the issue of immigration is one of the most misunderstood in British politics. It is a plain and simple fact that the vast majority of immigration to Britain comes from the EU. Despite this unquestionable truth, politicians seemingly circle around the reality endlessly, avoiding the fact that they can do little about this form of immigration.
Therefore, are these proposals just a mere case of empty political point scoring? The government wanting to seem like they are responding to immigration concerns, without actually affecting the real numbers too dramatically.
On the other hand, perhaps these proposals are a necessary evil. We are living in tough economic times, more and more people are out of work, or seeking part time employment, and while unfortunate, is it just the case that the state cannot support more vulnerable individuals?
Or, maybe it is just common sense to not let the poor migrate to Britain. Many would argue that the taxpayer already contributes enough to supporting the unemployed and poor living in Britain, is supporting poor migrants also the taxpayer’s job?
To me, the core idea of an immigration cap is one that is inherently flawed. Not only is any number arbitrary but, these days so little immigration comes from non-EU citizens. The 8,000 cases this could affect will do little to address the nationalistic qualms currently surfacing regarding immigration, only a good economy will stop those. All these proposals threaten to do is limit personal choice regarding marriage and break families apart.
However, one of the most intriguing things about these proposals is that it seems difficult to pitch yourself solely behind one point of view. All raise justifiable concerns. Therefore, let’s cue some debate.
What do you think of these proposals? A step forward on immigration or not?