Charity Reunite Families UK, which campaigns for ‘fair family immigration policy’ shares an open letter calling on Boris Johnson to bring an end to the ‘Minimum Income Requirement policy’ which they state ‘is causing devastation’ to affected families and couples. Reporting from Paris Ali-Pilling and Sarah Cheverton.
In 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron introduced a policy that means a UK Citizen has to meet a ‘Minimum Income Requirement’ of £18,600 p.a in order to be able to bring a Non EU spouse/partner to live in the UK with their family, as part of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ approach to immigration. Over 40% of the UK population does not earn this amount, particularly in areas where incomes are lower.
Reunite Families UK campaign for ‘a more humane and fair family immigration policy which will ensure the welfare of the children and safeguard their basic human rights – as well as the families as a whole unit’. They claim that the Requirement causes:
‘…physical, emotional and financial stress on many families who are forced to become single parent families while trying to work enough hours to meet the requirement. It is particularly noted among our group that children are severely affected by being torn away from both parents, one who is unable to enter the UK and the other who is having to work long hours to meet requirements.’
‘…The current Covid-19 health crisis has helped to cause even more distress and uncertainty for families who will remain separated even after lockdown.’
Despite calls for the requirement to be removed from NGOs in April, 2020, the rules remain in place. Reunite Families UK have published an open letter to Boris Johnson on the eighth anniversary of the policy’s introduction, as follows:
Dear Boris Johnson,
These last few months, Britain has gone through extraordinary times – but through this we have revealed our innate ability as humans to endure, adapt and protect. This is what has helped us through the challenges we’ve faced and helped us all – regardless of where we’re from – pull together, with many putting their own lives at risk to keep the country going. Most of us have also experienced first-hand what it is like to be separated from loved ones. They say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone – for many of us, this experience has brought into sharp focus just how important family really is.
So as lockdown eases and families start to come back together in one form or another, we ask you to consider the many thousands more who are unable to be reunited with theirs – including the thousands of children who have no idea when they will be able to hug their mummy or daddy. There is no end in sight for their lockdown, because of a policy introduced 8 years ago today, on 9 July 2012 which put a price tag on their family life.
The minimum income requirement [MIR] means that British people (and others who are settled in the UK) have to be earning at least £18,600 in order to live in the UK with a partner from outside Europe. Over 40% of the UK do not earn this – and this figure is likely to grow significantly as we enter a recession. This rule effectively tells people in this situation: ‘you don’t earn enough, so you’re not worthy of a family life here.’ The rule has caused hardship for years – and never more so than during the current pandemic. Belated, small changes have been made to the policy, for now at least, in light of Covid-19 but they leave lots of families behind – and beyond this time, our families have no idea what lies ahead for them.
*Elizabeth is a new mum who is forced to risk her life and the life of her young baby every day just so she can continue to meet the MIR to keep her family together:
‘I started working as a Nursing Assistant after finishing my maternity leave. My husband’s spouse visa extension is due in September, but now he has lost his job. As such, I’ve had no choice but to work full-time on nights on an NHS complex mental health ward with COVID-19 patients, to try and meet the MIR myself. Leaving my little boy this much was never the plan. This has affected me so badly, mentally. I have major anxiety attacks every time I have to leave the house. I am so stressed by not knowing if we’ll meet the financial requirements. We currently don’t have enough money to cover all the bills. Without a doubt, this has been the most horrendous time of our lives’.
Eight years since this policy was introduced, there is no evidence to show that it has had any positive impact. Many people affected by the MIR are in fact pushed out of paid work, because they are unable to juggle bringing up their families alone and working enough hours to meet the requirement
A full review of the policy has never been published. Instead, children have been growing up without one of their parents which has caused mental health issues in both adults and children. The decreased household income available to these separated families (and for those who are here together and applying for their extension) amidst a recession together with extortionate application fees  are causing increased poverty and despair.
As we look beyond Brexit, the government intends to extend the current rules to UK citizens and other settled residents (including EU citizens with settled status) with a partner from Europe, too, with the potential to devastate hundreds of thousands more families.
Over 100,000 people have already shown support for scrapping this policy, with momentum growing by the day. The road ahead for many in our society is looking tough – on the anniversary of the MIR, we ask you to think again and remove the MIR, so that families can stay together, no matter what.
With kind regards,
Caroline Coombs and Jane Yilmaz, Co-Founders and all the families in Reunite Families UK
And with thanks to support from:
Joanna Lumley OBE, FRGS – Actress, author, activist and presenter
Mary Atkinson, Families Together Campaign Officer, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Nicolas Hatton, CEO and founder member of The 3 Million
Jane Golding and Fiona Godfrey, Co-Chairs, British in Europe
And we have many more signatories from other organisations, legal professionals, MPs and academics who are showing support for this letter. For the full list of signatories please go here.
 Immigration fees that far exceed the unit costs i.e. the actual costs of processing these applications (unit costs). See Table with details of fees and unit costs – 2020.
*Name has been changed
This open letter was originally published here on Reunite Families UK.