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Migration policies are harming families and society

28 February 2023

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee publishes its report All families matter: An inquiry into family migration. The report explores the impact of family migration policies on families and society, including the experience of separated families and the situation of the NHS. The committee finds that current family migration policies fail both families and society and advocates for new policies grounded in humanity and decency.

The report

Current migration rules are at odds with the Government’s commitment to family life: they force family members to live apart. The arrival of spouses and partners of British citizens is deterred or delayed by complex rules and financial requirements. Children grow up without a parent. Families are effectively banned from being joined in the UK by elderly parents. Child refugees cannot be joined by any relatives.

Rules are overly restrictive and the Home Office is systematically deficient in its processing of family visa applications. Delays pile up, communication is appallingly poor, evidential requirements—how you prove your case—are unduly complex, and fees are prohibitive. This affects British citizens, refugees and permanent residents, including children born in the UK and adult citizens who have never lived in another country but have family members of a different nationality.

Family migration policies also undermine society. Essential skills are lost when people feel they have no alternative but to leave the UK, and some people may not come in the first place. The NHS is particularly affected. An individual’s contribution to the economy is weakened when a partner or parent is not allowed into the country to help raise children. In extreme cases, migration policies force families into destitution, making them reliant on the state.

The committee recognises that strict criteria and vetting of applications is necessary; public support demands it. The committee believes, however, that policies that respect family life also benefit society. With this report, the committee brings the question of family migration back to public attention, making its recommendations to nurture family life and unleash the potential of families to contribute to society.

Chair’s comments

Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said:

“Nobody should have to choose between home, safety, and family. The primary concern of family migration policies should be to allow families to live together in the UK where possible and the Home Office should ensure safe and legal routes for family reunion.

“The interests of families and society are not in competition: they go hand-in-hand. Family migration policies should ensure that they are sufficiently protective of family life.

“These restrictive rules and deficiencies affect British citizens, refugees, and permanent residents alike. As one witness told us: “I feel that, although I am a British citizen, I have no rights”.

“We believe that it is in the best interests of a child living in this country to be surrounded by their family and to remain here. The scandal around the children placed in asylum hotels—and going missing from them—points up the importance of looking at immigration from the child’s point of view.

“Current policies are extreme. It is virtually impossible to be joined by an elderly parent who needs care. No visa was issued to anyone in that situation in 2021. Tight but fair immigration rules should allow families to live together.

“The minimum income requirement, which those trying to be joined by a partner must meet, is fundamentally flawed. It should be made more flexible, and should not increase.

“Home Office processes must improve considerably, and standards of service substantially raised, without applicants left in the dark as to what is happening.

“The Government should significantly increase funding to improve the standards of the services the Home Office delivers to families. Recruiting and training caseworkers is an essential yet insufficient starting point.”


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