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THE LAW SOCIETY SAYS THE GOVERNMENT’S LATEST MOVE IS UNFAIR

 

 

By the Newsdesk

 

Friday, November 11, 2011.

 

 

The Law Society has raised concerns about the UK government’s proposals aimed at preventing ‘sham’ or forced marriages and abuse of the family immigration route.

 

The proposals would require couples who include a non-European Economic Area (EEA) national to attend an interview with the UK Border Agency before being allowed to marry within the UK. The Prime Minister in October had said that his government will be introducing big changes in family migration policy by tightening immigration controls on marriages.

 

Mr Cameron said that family migrants must not be “a burden on the taxpayer.” Among the proposals the government wants to introduce include raising the income threshold for sponsoring a spouse from outside of the European Union, currently linked to the entry level of social benefits.

 

But as a response to the UK Border Agency consultation on family migration , the Law Society stated that the existing family immigration application system is thorough, and that the legal framework is already in place to tackle abuse of the family route to settlement in the UK.  It says the UK Border Agency's primary focus should be on enforcing existing rules more effectively and efficiently, rather than introducing blanket requirements on couples because it lacks the resources to do so.

 

A sham marriage or civil partnership is entered into to enable one party to enter or remain in the UK, where there is no subsisting relationship and no intention to live together permanently or at all. Under UK law no immigration status can be obtained from a 'sham' or 'marriage of convenience'. If someone enters into a sham marriage, the UKBA has a clear legal right to refuse an immigration application.

 

The Law Society's President John Wotton said; “The UK Border Agency should focus on individual cases rather than creating new rules that will make it more difficult for many more people to marry.

 

“The Secretary of State has called for a ‘crack down' on abuse of the family route and to tighten up the system, yet the consultation lacks credible evidence of significant abuse.

 

“The proposed ‘tick box’ approach to applications is not appropriate for family migration. Over-reliance on whether boxes are ticked is likely to discourage officials from considering all the facts of the case - and might actually make it easier for the dishonest to abuse the system.

 

 “As the Secretary of State observes, ‘families are the bedrock of society’. An individual’s right to marry and to a private life are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and government proposals must be compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR.

 

“The government is entitled to adopt a policy of keeping net migration levels down, but the UK's international obligations - and  to its own citizens - must be respected."

 

Proposed new rules on family migration from outside the EU have been controversial. On October 12, the country’s Supreme Court disagreed with the government by ruling that foreigners and potential British spouses need not be at least 21 years of age before they can marry. The apex court argued that this would contravene the European Convention of Human Rights. Last year, figures suggest that almost 50,000 migration visas were granted by the government.

Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the charity that was a party to the suit against the government at the Supreme Court said:

“This was a law introduced on the hoof, which had no discernible effect on forced marriage, but infringed on the rights of UK citizens to live in the UK with their partners.”

 

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