What now for Immigration?

By Louise Koch, Immigration Solicitor

So after Theresa May announced her resignation, it leaves us thinking of the immigration legacy she leaves behind her as Home Secretary and Prime Minister. Her intention has been clear, to reduce immigration.

She has coined the phrase “hostile environment”. One effect is the Windrush scandal where legally resident Commonwealth citizens have lost their jobs, health care and dignity. Another effect is race discrimination. For example, the High Court recently found that the “right to rent” policy has caused landlords to discriminate against ethnic minority tenants.

In 2015, May said she wanted to reduce the asylum claims made in Britain. In fact, claims have gone up. She also claimed that it was immoral not to resettle more refugees. She has however failed to expand the number of resettlement places and prevented child refugees being reunited with their family members.

She ended the policy of automatic settlement for refugees after five years, leaving recognised refugees uncertain about their future safety. She also introduced a policy that prevents some refugees from getting British citizenship because of the way they entered the UK in the first place.

Rules introduced in 2012 have resulted in couples being kept apart and children being forced to move abroad or be separated from one of their parents. Unless the British or settled parent earns £18,600, they are unable to sponsor their overseas partner to enter the UK. This rule is discriminatory – women, ethnic minorities and those outside London are less likely to earn enough to meet this requirement.

Rule introduced at the same time have stopped British and settled individuals being able to bring their elderly foreign national parents to join them in the UK unless they can prove the parent is so ill that they need daily personal care that can’t be paid for abroad. This applies even when their family member in the UK is fully able to provide financial support to their foreign national relative and pay for all of their medical care in the UK.

Rights of appeal for family visitors coming to the UK have been stopped. Immediate settlement for spouses who have lived together outside the UK for four years or more has also been scrapped. Now, even those married for decades abroad must pay for visas and wait five years before they can stay permanently in the UK.

Citizenship application fees for children have massively increased and the £1012 fee prevents many now applying. The cost of immigration applications in general has skyrocketed, forcing migrants to leave the UK, borrow, scrimp and save or go illegal.

Even when a court finds that your removal from the UK would breach your human rights, you begin a ten-year route to settlement. Theresa May has introduced caps that have stopped skilled migrants like doctors and IT specialists from coming to the UK even when they could not be recruited locally.

She has introduced a “deport first, appeal later” law meaning you can only appeal against a decision to remove you from the UK after you’ve been removed.

The complexity of immigration law has become infamous under Theresa May. Judge after judge has criticised the state of the law. The rules are such a mess now and the process of applying is now so baffling, thanks to the privatisation of our immigration system, that it is now a technical nightmare.

All in all, I would say she has succeeded with her intention of creating a hostile environment, often unlawfully. I don’t believe Immigration has been reduced but she has definitely made my job and the life of migrants much harder! I wonder who will come next and what effect they will have! Watch this space!