Britain’s non-EU immigration cap may face hiccups (Lead)

June 27th, 2010 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 27 (IANS) Britain’s proposed cap on non-EU immigration to avoid a last-ditch influx into the country may run into rough weather as it is not applicable to non-EU migrants granted refugee status here or their dependents.

Labour has accused the coalition government of diluting the new immigration rules, including the compulsory English testing for non-EU migrant spouses, to get the Liberal Democrats to support them.

Home Secretary Theresa May is to announce Monday that just 24,100 workers from outside Europe will be allowed into the country before April. She will simultaneously launch a consultation process for deciding the level of the permanent cap.

Conservatives like London Mayor Boris Johnson have urged the government to rethink. His spokesperson said: “A crude cap could be very detrimental to the free movement of the talented, creative and enterprising people who have enabled London to be such a dominant global force.”

According to the Press Association, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Universities Minister David Willetts were both said to have expressed doubts about the immigration cap in cabinet discussions earlier in the week.

Former immigration minister Phil Woolas said rules relating to both the immigration cap as well as the compulsory English test for spouses wanting to marry British citizens had been diluted by exempting non-EU migrants with asylum status in Britain and their dependents.

He said the dilution was the Tory idea of getting support of the Liberal Democrats for the immigration cap and told The Daily Mail: “This means a British man who marries, say, a ­Brazilian girl who can’t speak English will not be able to bring her into this country. But an Afghan who gets here on the back of a lorry and successfully claims asylum can bring his Afghan wife, children and grandparents in — even if they don’t speak English.”

Labour MP and chairman of the home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, retorted: “It was Mr. Woolas who started all this. So, why is he saying all this now? It’s a continuation of what the Labour government started. Even the Liberal Democrats are against the immigration proposals. We still don’t really know what the exact proposals are.”

Vaz said the cap could affect relations with countries like India.

“An arbitrary cap is not the way. It will devastate university overseas students admissions and have a severe effect on some very important areas of businesses, which will have a direct impact on Britain’s effectiveness. Since spouses of settled people are the third largest recipient of visas, it may mean that the state will be deciding who people should marry, which is hardly libertarian”.

“The entry clearance posts will be overwhelmed by the number of applications and no thought appears to be given to providing them with extra resources. This will also damage relations with countries like India at a time when the government has pledged to enhance them.

Meanwhile, IANS has found that in a written reply to an MP’s question, Immigration Minister Damien Green did say that the two rules do not apply to non-EU people staying in Britain as refugees.

According to a transcript of the written questions and answers from the archives of the House of Commons June 22, 2010, Green said: “The new language requirement will not apply to dependants of refugees and people granted humanitarian protection in the UK…

“The annual limit will apply only to non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. There are no plans to apply the limit to dependants of refugees and people granted humanitarian protection in the UK applying for family reunion…,” Green responded to another question.

The exemptions came because the rules go against the “right to family life” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. A refugee could possibly argue that as they cannot return to their country, they can gain their “right to family life’ only by having it allowed in Britain - whether or not they speak English.

A Home Office spokesman said: “In compelling circumstances where a refusal of leave would amount to a breach of Article 8, we will consider granting discretionary leave outside the immigration rules.”

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at venkata.v@ians.in)

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