If implemented, it could put a stop to more than 80,000 people visiting British relatives
10th May, 2011: The UKBA has plans to terminate the right of appeal for family visit visas. If the proposal is implemented it could put a stop to more than 80,000 people visiting British relatives.
As per the available information through the leaked Home Office policy papers, as claimed to have seen by the Guardian, the move will effect the relatives of British families.
The leaked Home Office proposal to the immigration minister summarise a bid for secondary legislation in the new parliamentary session, starting this autumn, to put an end to appeal rights for family visitors. It also divulges that ministers want to scrap the right of appeal for thousands of skilled migrant workers in Britain who want to extend or renew their visas under the points-based system.
The policy paper admits the appeal achievement rate "might be perceived as high" but claims a large amount of appeals are allowed because they involve the suggestion of further proof. Officials dispute that, in these cases, relatives should have to pay for a new visa application rather than make an appeal.
According to the information offered the Home Office ministers have been told they need to prepare colleagues in government for these possible controversial changes.
To start with the Conservative party co-chairman, Baroness Warsi, the only British Pakistani in the coalition government has also been prepared.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, too has been cautioned to anticipate objections from some Commonwealth countries. This means the move can generate a renewed disagreement with India and Pakistan in the wake of the recent dispute over the cap on immigration.
The ministers are planning to do away with the right of appeal for more than 80,000 relatives of British families who are refused visas to visit them each year. Putting an end to the right of appeal could save the UKBA between £8m and £12m a year, and the justice ministry up to £24m in the cost of immigration judges and tribunals.
The paper, composed for Green by the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) director of appeals and removals, Phil Douglas, says the move is a vital part of strategy to decrease the number of pleas and resultant cost to the taxpayer.
He asserts says family visit visas are the only visit visa decisions taken by entry clearance officers abroad that still draw a full right of appeal.
He adds that they can expect this move to be controversial – in particular with some Commonwealth countries and UK communities with families overseas .
Douglas’s letter recognises there are probable objections to the move, including on human rights grounds.
It says that removal of family visit appeals is not without legal risk. He adds this is mitigated to some point by the fact that potentially some residual rights would have to remain to allow for appeals on the basis of the Human Rights Act 1998 or the Race Relations Act 1976.
Senior Whitehall officials have warned that the move is believed to be highly controversial, mainly within Britain’s Asian communities. It has also been termed as legally risky.
Meanwhile the immigration welfare groups have already damned the move as biased and callous. They assert such visits often involved weddings, funerals and visits to dying relatives.
The move repeats the tough approach expected later this year, when ministers reveal plans to restrain the number of family members coming to inhabit in Britain, as part of the push to cut net migration to the "tens of thousands".
More than 420,000 visa applications were made for short-term visits by close relatives of British families in 2010, at a cost of more than £70 each.
Out of the decisions made last year, 350,000 family visit visas were allowed, 88,000 were turned down.
More than 63,000 of those who were declined, appealed against the decision and around 36 per cent were allowed to come to Britain on appeal.
Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants commenting on the proposal says that there is an completely acceptable hope of British and settled people to be able to welcome family visitors. The fact that 36 percent of appeals are successful displays the scarcity of decision-making in this area.
He asserts that if someone wants to attend a wedding, a funeral, to visit a dying relative or to be with their loved ones for short periods is refused, the right to an appeal is the only fair way to settle such a matter. This idea is unfair and mean; and should be dumped before it gets any further.
Family visitors include grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and first cousins, as well as immediate family. A recent report by the independent inspector of immigration criticised the quality of initial decision-making on family visit visas applications, with more than 50% failing a sample test. The Home Office refused to comment on the "leaked documents".
Visiting family in the UK: How to apply for a family visitor visa