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Divided Families: are we winning?

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Posted on September 19th 2013

The difficult thing to ascertain in a campaign at times is ‘are we getting anywhere with all this’? It’s not like a chess match where the Government gradually let more and more people in as their Family Immigration rules collapse. There’s certainly so many combinations and permutations of what could happen, prediction becomes a tricky business.

Sitting in parliamentary debates where Mark Harper, Immigration Minister, might as well be playing Angry Birds on his smart phone you don’t get a sense of progress there and then, but take a step back from the immediacy of the Westminster talking match, take a look at what’s going on across the country, then you start to see things differently.

Local newspapersand student papers up and down the country are not only reporting the terrible situation faced by families divided by the rules,some are actively campaigning for the families’ rights to be together – under one roof, in the UK. The national press is getting in on the act and Channel 4 News has been quite excellent in its coverage of the issue.


There are more and more MPs realising the damage these rules are inflicting on families in their own constituencies. These are not the usual MPs representing diverse inner city areas, these are MPs like Andrew Percy, Tory MP for Brigg and Goole (I admit I did have to look up the fact that the constituency is in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) who triggered the adjournment debate on the threshold income required to sponsor a spouse for a visa. (see briefing document below)

Then there’s the successes, the victories on individual families as the courts find in their favour. Yesterday Christopher Reed learned that time had run out for the Home Office to appeal against the decision to allow his wife, Caroline, a spouse visa. It doesn’t come too long after Andy Russell welcomed his wife at Heathrow airport after a year long battle. The delight all involved in the campaigning work feel at these victories is uplifting.


However, despite clear recommendations by a High Court judge there is a battle over the MM & Ors case which the Government are appealing and which promises to drag on for some time. The result is that spouse visa applications which the Home Office deems it would  been refused because the income requirement (in its opinion) have not been met, will now be on hold until such time as court case is finalised. In real terms families are stuck in a complete limbo with no idea of when they may get a decision and crucially are still apart.

Some of JCWI’s clients received refusals prior to the pause in decision making, these people seemed almost fortunate. On lodging their appeals we have found the Home Office is routinely missing court deadlines and lodging its appeal bundle late. Thus delaying proceedings further by months with no impunity. When appeals are being listed routinely the hearing date is a year on. Remembering that these are husbands, wives and children who are separated until proceedings are resolved our justice system seems to be failing the right to family life.


So earlier this month, when changes to the Rules were instigated by the Home Office we looked with interest. They turned out to be a little tinkering with the ways people can prove their wealth to the adjudicators:

  • Allowing electronic bank statements to be submitted for all bank accounts, not just online bank accounts.
  • Investment-based cash savings held in a bank/savings account will be able to be used to meet the financial requirement, as well as savings in a deposit account.
  • Cash savings will be able to include the net proceeds from a property sale, within the 6 month period prior to application. Savings must be evidenced and the property owned by the applicant and/or their partner.

That was pretty disappointing when all’s said and done.  Nothing, not a crumb, for mothers with childcare responsibilities, for people married to partners in dangerous countries, nothing which might allow a judge discretion when considering an individual case. And certainly nothing for elderly dependent relatives who need their children to look after them in their final years.


Theresa May once spoke of the Conservatives being the ‘Nasty Party’ and anyone currently suffering as a result of her department’s policies would have every reason to identify with that.

A cornered tiger lashes out in all directions, a losing team resorts to desperate actions, but then a nasty party is nasty as a matter of course. No way of telling with the current government.

But that ignores the most important indicator of all. This campaign feels like it’s getting somewhere. It has the sympathy, it has the energy, it’s growing, it has constant and varied discussion, its got some brilliant people involved.

But mostly it’s got love at its heart.

And that takes a lot of beating.

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