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Reaction to Supreme Court decision on minimum income immigration rule

Press release issued: 24 March 2017

Academics from the University of Bristol’s newly formed Institute for Migration and Mobility Studies have expressed disappointment at last month’s ruling by the Supreme Court which decided the minimum income immigration rule is lawful.

The Institute, one of seven newly created Specialist Research Institutes designed to reflect Bristol’s strength and depth in key specialisms, provides a fresh approach to the study of migration through a prism of arts, humanities and social sciences.

The measure that British people must earn more than £18,600 before they can apply for spouses or partners from non-EEA states was not considered to breach human rights legislation by the Supreme Court’s seven justices on February 22.  

Professor Chris Bertram, Professor in Social and Political Philosophy and Co-Director of the Bristol Institute for Migration and Mobility Studies and Dr Devyani Prabhat from the University of Bristol's Law School together with Dr Helena Wray, Associate Professor from the University of Exeter Law School have outlined their thoughts on the ruling in an article published on the University of Bristol's Law School Blog.

Dr Prabhat said: "For thousands of British citizens and residents separated from loved ones by the onerous financial requirements in the immigration rules, the headlines after the Supreme Court decision were disappointing."

The case concerned the entry criteria for a non-EEA national to join their British citizen (or long term resident) spouse or partner ("the sponsor") in the United Kingdom. These include a requirement that the sponsor has an income of at least £18,600 per annum or substantial savings, with additional sums needed for dependent non-citizen children (“the minimum income requirement” or MIR).

Dr Prabhat added: "As the press reported, the Supreme Court did not find the MIR incompatible with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to respect for private and family life).

"However, hidden behind the government’s reported “victory” is a more complex legal and political picture which offers hope to at least some of those affected."

The Supreme Court decided that the Government had been unduly restrictive in only counting the British partner's earnings when assessing a family's capacity to support itself and that it had not done enough to take account of the best interests of children when implementing the rules.

The ball is now in the Government's court to make changes that could make life easier for some families but ultimately there was only so much the Supreme Court could do without venturing onto political terrain.

Professor Bertram concluded: "Ultimately, it is for the country to decide what kind of family migration regime it wants. Recently, the interests of taxpayers, businesses and groups concerned about immigration levels have been a powerful influence of policy.

"If we aspire to be a liberal society, an aim which all the major parties endorse, the interests of citizens in pursuing relationships and forming families with the partner of their choice need to be give due weight."

Further information

Bristol Institute for Migration and Mobility Studies provides a fresh approach to the study of migration.

Drawing from multidisciplinary perspectives, the Institute looks at why people move from one place to another; the social, economic and cultural consequences of migration; and, importantly, the actual experience of migration.

It is recognised as setting the agenda in migration research, particularly in the fields of colonial and postcolonial experience, ethnicity and citizenship; family migration, and the analysis of migration data.

The institute draws together such research and teaching, reflecting the economic, social political and cultural importance of migration in the modern world and its impact upon our lives.

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