Mary Atkinson, Families Together Campaign Officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, highlights government plans to extend the minimum income requirement to UK citizens with a partner from the EU could lead to thousands of families being split up.
Tucked away in the White Paper on immigration, the government this week announced plans to split up thousands more families.
After Brexit, any citizen of ‘Global Britain’ will have to earn over £18,600 a year – far more than the minimum wage – in order to live here with a loved one from outside this small island. The rule is called the Minimum Income Requirement, and since 2012, it has stopped anyone earning below this threshold from building a life in the UK with a partner from outside the European Economic Area.
After Brexit, any UK citizen will have to earn over £18,600 a year – far more than the minimum wage – in order to live here with a loved one from outside this small island.
The rule disproportionately impacts women, because of the gender pay gap, ethnic minorities groups that earn less and people from parts of the country where wages are low – the Supreme Court has said so.
Across the country, 80% of women in part-time work don’t make the threshold, and anyone who is not a white man living in London is more likely to struggle to earn enough. In fact, the only parliamentary constituency in the UK where everyone earns above the MIR is – no particular surprise here – Westminster.
Credit: Cheryl Holt | Pixabay
So why do we do this? The government’s reply consists of the same old refrain, repeated ad nauseam: to save money, reduce the burden on the public purse. Let’s leave aside the fact that a partner from outside the EU cannot access benefits, and pays into the system through tax on their earnings – what do facts matter?
But if it really is all about money, why did the government recently admit that it cannot even guess at the economic impact these rules have had, and will not bother to try? Six years on from their introduction, it has no idea whether there has been any economic impact at all. And yet elsewhere, it announces that it will be extending these same rules to tens of thousands more people, in order to “prevent burdens on the taxpayer,” as it states in White Paper.
A child growing up in a single-parent working family is twice as likely to be living in poverty as one in a two-parent household. But instead of doing something about this, instead of protecting working and valuing working families – at a time when record numbers of us are in work but still struggling to make ends meet – the government is creating more working single-parent families, and putting more children at risk of poverty.
For a young mother struggling to earn £18,600 a year in order to have her partner here, the choice between taking on a second job to scrape together some extra income and being there to read their child a bedtime story is no choice at all.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants works with too many families in this position, families up and down the country who are desperate to be together, and are working every hour of the day to get there.
The families we work with are tired.
They are tired of being made to feel like less, and less worthy of love, just because of the numbers on their payslip at the end of the month.
Tired of working seven days a week at three jobs, and not even being able to look forward to a hug from their partner at the end of yet another long day. Tired of Skype dinners, Skype bath time with the kids, Skype bedtime stories. But most of all, they are tired of being made to feel like less, and less worthy of love, just because of the numbers on their payslip at the end of the month.
Credit: Justin Follis | Unsplash
That these rules – rules that give the rich more freedom to love than the less well-off – have been allowed to exist for over six years is an outrage. That the government now wants to extend them and split apart thousands more families is worse than cruel. This is not ‘levelling the playing field‘ between people from inside the EU and outside it, as we’ve been told by Sajid Javid.
The government must take this opportunity to introduce sense and heart into the family migration rules, and scrap the Minimum Income Requirement for everyone.
It’s not levelling the playing field because this isn’t a game – these are people’s lives. So when the government says that their new immigration system provides for more ‘equality’ between Europeans and non-Europeans, what they really mean is an equal opportunity to be separated from your family by a Home Office official
you’ve never met.
Rather than copy-pasting a policy that damages our families and our communities, the government must take this opportunity to introduce sense and heart into the family migration rules, and scrap the Minimum Income Requirement for everyone.
Featured image credit: Cheryl Holt | Pixabay
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