Family immigration proposals ‘unethical’
(article reproduced from the Law Society Gazette – click here for direct link)
Solicitors have rejected as ‘venal’ and ‘unethical’ proposals from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to prevent abuses of the family immigration route into Britain.
They warn that some of the proposals, part of a package of measures to reduce immigration released for a consultation that closed last week, disproportionately affect women, while others are impractical and heavy-handed.
Law Society president John Wotton said: ‘The government has called for a “crackdown” on abuse of the family route, yet this consultation lacks credible evidence of significant abuse.’
The consultation’s 40 proposals include requiring solicitors to counter-sign applications for marriage-based leave to remain.
Others propose no right of appeal for people applying for family visit visas; a minimum income threshold for sponsoring family members; and extending the probation period before spouses and partners can apply for settlement from two to five years.
There are also proposals outlining plans for tackling sham and forced marriages. These anticipated the prime minister’s speech on immigration on 10 October, when he announced tougher visa rules to weed out bogus marriages and said that he would ask the home secretary to consult on criminalising forced marriages.
Law Society immigration law committee member Stefan Vnuk said: ‘There are ethical issues around co-opting solicitors into immigration control and requiring them to counter-sign applications. They are not trained or regulated for such a role – they are legal advisers. And what happens to applicants who are unrepresented?’
Hina Majid, policy director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: ‘Women make up around two-thirds of the immigrants who arrive by the family route and yet the UKBA has not done an equality impact assessment. But maybe it doesn’t matter – the decisions have already been made.’
Immigration Law Practitioners Association chair Sophie Barrett-Brown said: ‘This consultation made the hackles rise. It is impractical, venal and nonsensical. The proposed measures are totally disproportionate.’
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