Family Migration: Brits lose out when policy is led by blunt targets

The government’s decision to impose an income requirement suggests that the true motivation is simply to reduce numbers, as every British family 'stuck' abroad, or separated, helps to reduce net migration.

Jenny Pennington is a Researcher at IPPR

New research published today lays bare the negative impact of the UK’s management of immigration on British people. The report, from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, shows that the government’s efforts to bear down on immigration numbers through tightening rules on family migration has led to hardship for many.

Examples include British families ‘stuck’ abroad, young British children growing up without a parent and in one case a breast-feeding mother separated from her British baby. According to calculations in the report, as many as 47 per cent of people in employment in the UK would fail to meet the income level needed (£18,600 p/a) to sponsor a non-EEA partner to come to the UK.

The report shows how the government’s target to reduce net migration is dominating policy making in this area. The stated aim of the rules is to ensure that migrants coming through the family route are not a ‘burden’ on the state.

However there are much more direct ways of doing this, for example restricting access to benefits or applying higher visa fees. The government’s decision to impose an income requirement (with entirely predictable consequences) instead suggests that the true motivation is simply to reduce numbers – every British family ‘stuck’ abroad, or separated, helps to reduce net migration.

In response to the research, Mark Reckless, a representative of the Home Affairs Select Committee, was keen to speak to the latter point. Speaking on the Today programme he argued that the limits on family migration are vindicated by their contribution to reducing overall ‘net migration’.

However falling migration doesn’t necessarily reduce public concerns. Polling figures released last week show that even though net migration has fallen by almost 40 per cent across the last year, almost two thirds of the population continue to believe that immigration is still rising

Instead of its single-minded focus on net migration, the government needs to confront the difficult trade-offs that migration policy raises, some of which have been clearly illustrated by today’s report. The government should take action to ensure that family migration contributes to life in the UK.

Rather than an arbitrary income test, the government should focus on ensuring that all family migrants come with a satisfactory level of English to be able to participate in and contribute to society, on making sure that the UK welfare system and labour market are fair for everyone, and on supporting integration in local communities.

The APPG report shows how we all lose when migration policy is led by blunt targets about migration numbers. The consequences of the government’s family migration policy may have been unintended, but they were predictable.

37 Responses to “Family Migration: Brits lose out when policy is led by blunt targets”

  1. LB

    It’s simple economics.

    We need migrants who pay more in tax than they cost in government spending.

    We need a simple rule that is fair and that can be applied without any criteria of race or nationality.

    Currently that is not the case.

    There are bad effects of this.

    The main ones are, that people have to subsidize migration. The result on the poor is bad. Their wages are depressed. Lots won’t or can’t compete, so stay on benefits at huge cost to the rest of us, and huge cost to them personally .

    Which bit of economics 101 don’t you get?

    Or come back with some arguments that rather than inane comments.

  2. Sparky

    But other people don’t have to fund my choices.

  3. JC

    I can see that it is a problem if both countries refuse to accept the foreign married partner, but most people marry because they want to spend the rest of their lives with someone, not because they want to live in a particular country. As long as people understand the limitations of marrying someone who is not entitled to live in a particular country, then I see no problem.

    For example, if my wife were not entitled to live in the US, I would not consider moving there. I hope she wouldn’t chose to live in a country where I was not entitled to live.

  4. matt

    Immigration is still rising. The rate of immigration as measured by net migration is falling, There are more immigrants here than there were last year. The public are correct in their perceptions

  5. roggy1

    Yes we do.

    If you choose to drive on the roads, that’s funded from everyone’s road tax.

    If you choose to see a doctor, that’s funded by everyone’s national insurance.

    If you choose to live in a society then your life is funded by other people.

    Unless you are living as a hermit then my taxes are helping pay for your life to be as full as it currently is, and you are welcome. I don’t begrudge it to you at all. So don’t be a d*ck to people who just happened to fall in love with someone from outside the EEA

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