UK immigration law 'clear injustice', says Catholic leader

Published 16 December 2013  |  
(AP)

Families are being shattered by harsh UK immigration laws, according to Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

Mr Nichols, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, specifically highlighted the ruling that couples with one UK and one non-EU partner would only be granted reunification reprieve if the UK partner was earning more than £18,600.

"These new immigration rules are ruthlessly applied against British citizens," Archbishop Nichols has said in the Guardian.

"There is something deeply unsavoury about the inhumanity with which immigration targets are being pursued. The administrative processes, as I heard myself, strip applicants of their basic dignity.

"Support for family life is a cornerstone of British society and, in fact, of the Catholic tradition.

"This victimisation of a group of British citizens is an indication of how far we have moved from these principles and values."

The law in question, which was brought into force in July 2012, has been annually responsible for the disintegration of 17,800 families, leading many children only growing up with access to one parent.

One family who spoke to Politics.co.uk has said that their children now refer to their mother as "computer mummy" because they only ever get to see her via video-calls on Skype.

Jan Brulc, a spokesman for the Migrants' Rights Network who took his concerns to the Archbishop, is quoted in the Guardian as saying, "It is 18 months since the rules were changed and it is becoming clear that children have been separated from their families and it is causing untold anguish to families facing permanent separation.

"This doesn't square with British values."

In the previous summer, Liberal Democrat peer Lady Hamwee published a report that concluded there was "a strong case for these rules to be reviewed".

Couples will often split up temporarily so that one member can find work that satisfies the payment threshold and collect sufficient payslips to make the application.

Others live as a couple in another EU member state first, and then moving to the UK as EU citizens.

"Other EU citizens are free to come and live in the UK with spouses from outside the EU, and yet British citizens do not enjoy the same rights," the Archbishop said.

He suggested Home Secretary Teresa May's real intention was to lower the overall immigration figures.

The media was also criticised for fostering an anti-immigrant culture in the UK.

"The government's intention with these new regulations is to cut the number of immigrants from outside the European Union," the Archbishop said.

"There is a moral responsibility on all those in public life, including the media, to avoid stirring up irrational fears that feed prejudice.

"The fostering of mistrust and dislike of those who come to this country is the promotion of unjust discrimination, and unworthy of any true political leadership."

He added, "Anyone truly concerned for the family as the building block of society, and realistic about the mobility of British people today, must see both the folly of this policy and how it is an affront to the status of British citizenship."

A Home Office spokeswoman quoted in the Guardian defended the policy, describing it as "necessary to prevent a family becoming a burden on the taxpayer and to promote integration".

"Our reforms are working and immigration is falling, while we build a fairer system," she said. "We welcome those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family, work hard and make a contribution. But family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense."

The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said people bringing family back to the UK need "to make sure they can support each other".

However, she was critical of the Government, saying it was "warned that the inflexibility of their system would lead to unfairness and injustice".

"If a British citizen is working part-time or at home looking after children they can be unable to bring a spouse back to Britain even if they are earning far more than the threshold and could easily support the entire family," she said.

"The real problem is that Theresa May's net migration target treats all migration the same and doesn't distinguish between different types of immigration or look at the impact."

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