Failed relationships with migrants to be exposed in public statements
(14 December 2015)
The Home Office has published new documents aimed at exposing the broken relationships with migrants. A new form available online invites anyone who is no longer living with a migrant as a spouse or partner to insert their names and submit to ‘give my permission for the Home Office to use the information referred to’.
Professor Thom Brooks of Durham University, a leading authority on immigration law and policy, says: ‘the government is taking clear aim at bogus marriages that allow migrants to reside in the country on a false basis. Ministers will hope that more estranged people come forward to inform the Home Office to improve their detection of anyone overstaying their visa – but they have not thought this through’.
According to the latest International Passenger Survey, there were 45,000 non-EU nationals immigrated long-term to the UK to accompany or join others with the intention of residing one year or more over the past 12 months. This is a decrease from 53,000 over the previous year.
Spouses or partners can be permitted to stay and work in the UK to EEA citizens because of EU free movement rules. However, they may have to leave the country when their relationship breaks down.
It is feared by some experts that the new online form may do more harm than good. Professor Brooks says: ‘The government’s “public statement” form seems directed more towards looking tough for the public than taking appropriate action. The public will wonder why a form meant to help the Home Office identify potential visa overstayers that it asks only for names, but not addresses or mobile numbers so statements can be checked and verified’.
Professor Brooks is concerned that the form is more useful as a threat that may intimidate non-European citizens into remaining in relationships they wish to leave for fear of removal from the country leading to potential abuses.
He says: ‘If the Home Office wants to identify relationships no longer subsisting, it can begin by checking the courts for divorce announcements. Ministers would do better to use common sense and raise their game by becoming more knowledgeable about the system works – before making yet another policy change that well make necessary detection more difficult’.