Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols attacks immigration targets.
Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster :
I have witnessed the trauma our supposedly pro-marriage government is inflicting on thousands of families and their children
'Recently I met a group of people who were so traumatised that at times they found it difficult to speak. It was a harrowing meeting, although a necessary one. Those who are so distressed find great help in being listened to. But I was left feeling helpless, such is their plight.
'The people I met are all victims of the new regulations regarding foreign spouses of British nationals coming to live in the United Kingdom. These new immigration rules were introduced in July 2012 and are ruthlessly applied against British citizens seeking to establish a marital home here.
'The people I met were citizens of this country, holders of British passports. All of them, however, were broken-hearted because they were not permitted to bring their wives or husbands to live here. In each case there was going to be no call on the public purse – in fact each excluded spouse would be an earner and a taxpayer, not a benefits claimant. Yet protection of the public purse is the constant argument from our government on limiting immigration. From what I was being told, this argument is false and misleading...'
'The most senior Catholic in England and Wales has branded the government's pursuit of immigration targets as "inhumane" and warned that rules preventing foreign spouses of UK citizens from settling here was damaging the development of thousands of British children.
'In a rare political intervention, Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, urged the government to change a policy introduced last summer that prevents British people living with spouses who come from outside the European Union unless they can show an annual income of at least £18,600, well above the £12,855 of the minimum wage.
'The measure was a scandal, Nichols said, adding: "Anyone truly concerned for the family as the building block of society, and realistic about the mobility of British people today, must see both the folly of this policy and how it is an affront to the status of British citizenship.
"The government's intention with these new regulations is to cut the number of immigrants from outside the European Union," Nichols writes in Monday's Guardian. "But in doing so, is it the government's intention to penalise British citizens? To undermine marriages and to split up families?
'... Nichols's attack on the coalition's immigration policies comes amid MPs' deliberation of an immigration bill, which is at the committee stage in the Commons. He spoke after a meeting at his Westminster residence with British passport-holders affected by the ruling. He said they were so traumatised and "broken-hearted" that at times they found it difficult to speak. (Ed. : I was there. It was very mentally and emotionally draining).
'In each case the spouse who was prevented from coming to the UK was not going to be drawing any benefits, Nichols said, which he said suggested to him the government's argument that immigration must be constrained to safeguard the public purse was "false and misleading".
'This summer, the all-party parliamentary group on migration chaired by the Liberal Democrat peer Lady Hamwee published a report into the new system that concluded there was "a strong case for these rules to be reviewed". It took evidence from 45 families whose inability to meet the income requirement had led to the separation of children, including British children, from a non-European parent or wider family members.
'Jan Brulc, a spokesman for the Migrants' Rights Network, which introduced victims of the policy to the archbishop, said it has heard from more than 200 families adversely affected by the new rule. The Home Office's own impact assessment indicated as many as 17,800 families could be affected.
'... The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for a swift review of the policy. "When people bring family back to this country they do need to make sure they can support each other," she said.
"But the government were warned that the inflexibility of their system would lead to unfairness and injustice. For example if a British citizen is working part-time or at home looking after children they can be unable to bring a spouse back to Britain even if they are earning far more than the threshold and could easily support the entire family. The real problem is that Theresa May's net migration target treats all migration the same and doesn't distinguish between different types of immigration or look at the impact."