UK income ruling 'tears Zim families apart'

HARARE - The UK Supreme Court has upheld British Prime Minister Theresa May’s “harsh” £18 600 minimum income rule for those wishing to bring in non-European spouses in a ruling slammed by Zimbabwean campaigners as perpetuating the separation of thousands of families.

The seven justices at the UK’s highest court announced their decision on Wednesday, ruling that “the minimum income threshold is accepted in principle”.

On top of the £18 600 minimum threshold, one must earn an additional £3 800 for the first dependent child and £2 400 for each further child.

In their full judgment, the justices, however, noted that the Home Office’s rules and instructions failed to take full account of the children involved and “has caused, and will continue to cause, significant hardship to many thousands of couples who have good reasons for wanting to make their lives together in this country, and to their children”.

This comes as the UK has attracted thousands of Zimbabwean migrants, desperate for work and a chance to send money home, with the southern African country now in the UK’s Top 10 asylum receiving nations.

In 2016, Zimbabwe received formal Diaspora remittance receipts of $780 million, a 17 percent decline from $935 million recorded in 2015, in part reflecting the impact of the appreciation of the US dollar against other source currencies, particularly the South African rand, according to Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.

The ruling means thousands of Zimbabweans that have migrated to the UK cannot bring or remain with their spouses in Britain, because they do not earn enough money.

Taffi Nyawanza of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Investment Group said while the minimum income requirement of £18 600 was harsh, there were three positives from the ruling.

“For the first time, the Home Office will now be required to take into account the income of the spouse coming from abroad. This is significant and a game changer,” he said.

“If there are children involved, potentially there must be flexibility in the assessment of the rules and the Home Office has been ordered to propose how it will take this into account.

“Finally, where the spouse is already in the UK and is an overstayer usually where the couples have met in the UK but there is sufficient income, the court has said there is no need to send that spouse out of the UK for the purpose of making a visa application which would be granted anyway.”

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said yesterday the rules were “tearing families apart and significantly harming children.”

“This judgment confirms that the (UK) government’s position is now untenable and they must now take immediate steps to protect the welfare of children in accordance with their legal duty,” JCWI chief executive, Saira Grant, said

The UK government says the minimum income rule is to prevent unqualified spouses coming to the UK and becoming dependent on the State.

The rules were first introduced on July, 9, 2012 by May when she was home secretary.

There is a significant population of Zimbabweans who have been living in the UK for many years without receiving a positive decision on their application for asylum, unable to undertake paid work or receive support from the UK government, with many asylum seekers facing destitution, unable to reunite with their families back home.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Brian Paddick said: “ . . . May and (UK home secretary) Amber Rudd seem hell-bent on reducing immigration at all costs regardless of the heartbreak and suffering it results in.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The current rules remain in force but we are carefully considering what the court has said in relation to exceptional cases where the income threshold has not been met, particularly where the case involves a child.”

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