Theresa May: £18,600 – that’s the price of love

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Government attempts at introducing an immigration cap have failed, with the level of net migration remaining at record levels. In response, this month the government have proposed an alternative way of controlling immigration through reforming family-route visas. This will be part of the wider immigration agenda that includes the cap on work visas and reforming student visas.

The family route reforms come with an income requirement threshold and a test that ensures that the immigrants can integrate into British society called the “Life in the UK” test. There will also be an intermediate level English language test.

May announced in parliament that the new reforms will require

“anyone who wishes to bring a foreign spouse or partner, or dependants to Britain will have to be able to support them financially.”

The minimum income requirement for sponsors will be £18,600. This requisite wage rises for those who wish to bring children to £22,400 and an extra £2,400 for every child on top of that.

The justification for this is to prevent immigrants becoming a “burden on the taxpayer” as Mrs May puts it.

The government claims that the reforms would restrict the amount of sham marriages, prevent non-English speakers entering, reduce the amount of elderly dependents relatives and remove the right to appeal for failed visas. The reforms would also make it easier to deport criminals and prevents them from using article 8 of the European Human Rights Convention that gives them the right to a family life.

Whilst action is needed to prevent any abuses of the law, these measures have some downfalls. Putting a price on immigration prevents the poor from migrating, whilst not curtailing the movement of the wealthy. The wage requirement demands mean that you could require upwards of £25,000 to bring a partner and children over.

Whilst the UK average wage is roughly £26,000, this figure drops dramatically after tax. The wage is therefore out of reach for many people and Yvette Cooper points out that “The system does not take account of the foreign partner’s income, which might have a differential impact on women.”

The fixed figure does not consider the unique situations faced by different families and simply prescribes a one-size-fits-all solution. Furthermore, the argument that immigrants are a burden on the economy is a fallacy. Immigrants are actually less likely to claim benefits than British people. Immigration has been and continues to be valuable to the British economy.

Whilst first generation ethnic minority immigrants are likely to be poor and practice unskilled jobs, second generation migrants have a high rate of economic mobility making them an asset, rather than a burden on the economy. You don’t have to wait for the second generation for these economic benefits as the unskilled labour of first generation immigrants is usually invaluable to the economy as well.

May has made it clear that the ECHR has been a barrier to her proposals, but she has managed to circumvent human rights legislation because article 8 is “not an absolute right”. It is right to curb the use of article 8 for criminal to avoid deportation, however human rights laws are established for a reason, and thus curbing them is dangerous practice reserved for despotic regimes.

Considering that article 8 is not an absolute right anyway and there are instances where criminals have lost cases where article 8 was considered, Mrs May’s proposal is an unnecessary distraction.

As the Conservative Party, well known for their support of families values try to introduce the new reforms, it must be questioned whether the proposed immigration reforms will do more to harm families than support them.

Alan Ssempebwa

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