As many as 15,000 British children do not live with both parents because of immigration rules, the Children’s Commissioner for England has claimed.
Research from Middlesex University and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that out of 38 developed countries, the UK has “the least family-friendly family reunification policies”.
In 2012, the coalition government introduced new requirements for spousal visas. One such requirement was that any Brit applying for one had to earn at least £18,600 per year. This represents 138 per cent of the national minimum wage and means that almost half of working Britons cannot afford to live with a partner from outside of the European Union.
With the number of British children born to foreign mothers increasing, these rules have had a “profound impact” on numerous families, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said.
She claimed that the rules “actively drive families apart, and leave British children able to communicate with one parent only via Skype”.
The newly published research found that children with parents who cannot enter the UK as a result of these strict immigration rules “suffer from stress and anxiety, affecting their well-being and development”, Ms Longfield said.
Research co-author Dr Helena Wray is an associate professor of Law at Middlesex University. She said that the financial requirements to apply for a spousal visa are “much more onerous than they need to be to protect the public purse”.
“The result has been the separation of parents and children, heartache and misery. Some families cannot see how they can ever meet the rules and separation may be permanent.”
Dr Wray called for an urgent change in the immigration rules to make them more flexible. That way, “affected children, the vast majority of whom are British citizens, can grow up in their own country with both their parents”.
A discussion paper on the research called Skype Families is available online. For more information, click here.