Families are failed by the Home Office’s current migration policies and practice, according to a recently published report from the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
The report – “All families matter: An inquiry into family migration” – says that current migration rules are at odds with the Government’s commitment to family life and are forcing family members to live apart.
The Home Office sees separation as a matter of choice and regards online contact as adequate, an idea with which the committee “profoundly disagrees”.
The arrival of spouses and partners of British citizens is deterred or delayed by “overly complex” rules and financial requirements meaning parents are forced to bring up children alone until they can be joined by their foreign partners, said the committee.
The rules affect 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 rules now apply in circumstances where, before Brexit, there was free movement. Many European citizens and their families, and British citizens with European relatives, are now affected. The committee added:
“The Home Office is systematically deficient in its processing of family visa applications. Delays pile up, communication is appallingly poor, evidential requirements for how you prove your case are excessively complex, and fees are prohibitive. People are left distraught…
…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 Home Secretary told the committee that the policies strike the right balance between respecting family life and protecting societal interests. The committee recognises that strict criteria and vetting of applications is necessary; public support demands it. It believes, however, that policies that respect family life also benefit society.
A child’s best interests, which generally mean being with family, should be at the heart of family migration policies, in the committee’s view. It found that there is much to be learnt from family law when it comes to protecting children in immigration matters.”
Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the House of Lords 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.”