Debate: Home Office’s proposals on family migration: Plain wrong, political point scoring, a necessary evil or common sense?

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.

Smug...Damian Green, Immigration Minister.

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?

Kenneth Way.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Debate: Home Office’s proposals on family migration: Plain wrong, political point scoring, a necessary evil or common sense?

  1. Nahuel Tunon

    Is this designed to stop marriages for Visa’s? Or does it try and stop immigrants bringing family members into the country? For me this is a kind of pointless proposal doesn’t clearly state what it wants to achieve and why.

    Then again less than £5000 a year is mere pittance. Anyone on minimum part time wage is above that threshold. This does not seem to be discouraging a great deal of people from coming and does not solve the question

    If a family is earning just above £5000 a year they still need assistance from the government as this is not enough to live on therefore defeating the point of the bill.

    The common mistake we make with these kinds of debates is that we ignore the quality of the bill and focus on the issue which the bill is passed for. We need to discuss both simultaneously.

    This bill does breach serious human rights as they are dictating who is wealthy enough to marry and from where. But most importantly it is shameful that the government still does not see the value and positive impact immigration had in Britain. The UK has always gotten it wrong with immigration and this just seems like another area where they alienate immigrants and play on stereotypes.
    This will not cut drastically the welfare bill but it will harm already strained relationship Britain and especially the government has with immigrants and other ethic minorities.

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