Monday, 3 January 2011

Britain's rules on immigration rights of young spouces legally overturned

MarriageImage by jcoterhals via Flickr
Source: Guardian

By Helen Pidd

The government's immigration policy suffered a blow when two couples made successful appeals against the ban on young spouses entering the UK .

Both couples had married abroad, with one half of each pair returning to the UK alone. They were unable to be reunited in the UK because of the home secretary's ban on non-European under-21s wanting to live with their British partners in this country.

The law was brought in two years ago to deal with the problem of forced marriages. Allowing the appeals, Lord Justice Sedley said: "I have reached the conclusion that the arbitrary and disruptive impact of the rule on the lives of a large number of innocent young people makes it impossible to justify, at least where one spouse is a UK citizen, notwithstanding its proper objective." He said the ban could not lawfully be applied to Diego and Amber Aguilar or Shakira Bibi and Suhyal Mohammed "or others like them".

The judge said it was not for the court of appeal to rewrite the rule. That was for home secretary, Theresa May, to do "in the light of the court's reasoning, unless she decides to abandon it altogether".

The court's decision was welcomed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which brought the appeal on behalf of the Aguilars. Its legal policy director, Hina Majid, said it would "open up the possibility for challenges" from other couples.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said it would appeal.
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