Migrants' Rights Network

Separated from the ones you love- #DividedFamilies, Brexit & Refugees

Being with your family isn’t such a simple option for many who decide to love someone from outside the EU, or choose the UK as a safe haven. After another anniversary of the family migration rules, some families are no closer to living with the ones they love.


Another unhappy anniversary for some

Since 9 July 2012, some families have had to endure the heartache of separation because of restrictive immigration rules that place conditions on who can bring a spouse, and children into the country. After 4 years of legal challenges in the lower courts, it was finally taken to the Supreme Court in a case known as, MM & Ors v Secretary of State, Home Department in 2016.

A year after the Supreme Court ruled on the case, and slammed the policy for not taking into account the best interests of the child, and people’s additional income sources. It disappointingly, upheld the requirement of the minimum income threshold of £18,600, because it was deemed that discretion to grant leave could always be applied if it breached a person’s human rights.

While they may believe that discretion is used, BritCits found that in many cases, this wasn’t happening, and found the rules mandate that caseworkers not to exercise discretion with regards to the financial requirement. This has led to absurd refusals, such as in the cases where the income is less than £1 a week below £18,600. In other cases, if your income is reduced to below £18,600 due to sickness or other unforeseeable circumstances, you may be refused and expected to wait another 6 months before reapplying.

The minimum income requirement has ended up becoming a one size fits all, and does not take into account individual circumstances. Basically, if you have a low income, think twice before loving someone abroad, and of making a life together in the UK.

While the Supreme Court judgment has offered some families and couples a slight reprieve, campaigners, families and lawyers are still awaiting the implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling. How long separated families will have to wait though, who knows?

The future for migrating families

As if the current income threshold does not have a detrimental impact on families, the Conservative Government seems hell bent on making lives more unbearable. Their recent manifesto stated they would “…continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union. We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas.” All of this in the name of a ‘sustainable’ net migration target, which the Government would like reduced from hundreds of thousands, to tens of thousands.

There seems to be some perverse pleasure in trying to keep these families apart, all for the sake of trying to meet the net migration target, which hasn’t been achieved for the whole period that Theresa May was the Home Secretary anyway.

We have seen the consequences of rules separating families have. Only last week, a coroner called for changes in the treatment of child refugees after Mohammed Hassan, a 17-year-old, Kurd from Iraq, died in the UK when he was crushed by a lorry.

Mohamed had been detained by UK authorities in Calais, but they failed to explore his situation in any detail, did not offer him a chance to claim asylum, and only offered him out-of-date information on where he could get could further support.

Mohamed had family in the UK, which he was entitled to join under the Dublin III regulations, but this was never discussed with him. His death highlights the lengths which people are forced to turn to when they are faced with such restrictive policies, and when families are kept apart in dangerous situations.

Efforts to tackle the family reunification rules are being taken by organisations frustrated by the barriers forced into the pathways of refugees and their families that remain at risk, but it is not a quick fix.

An opportunity to expand the family reunification process has been proposed by Chris Bryant MP and has called for ‘… refugee families to be reunited by expanding the definition of family members allowed to accompany refugees and giving refugee children the right to be reunited with their parents.

He is encouraging the public to determine which bills he introduces and has asked for people to vote via the following survey. The deadline is 7pm on Tuesday, 11th July, so please vote for this important bill.

Brexit & Family migration

As EU nationals debate their rights and entitlements in the UK, the one aspect they are going to be faced with post-Brexit are the family migration rules too. To date, under EU law, any EU/EEA national has been able to bring in their dependents to the UK without any thresholds or barriers.

But in less than the two years, we are going to find a significant number of EU nationals are going to be forced to face the same dilemma that many non-EU nationals face- separation or stay away from the UK. Either way this will be no easy choice.

People need to remind themselves that the UK does not allow you to easily live with the ones you love, and difficult choices have to be made. No-one should have to face such a situation but while they do, we need to continue to pursue the right to family life.


Fizza Qureshi is Director of MRN

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