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Restrictions unlawfully ‘preventing from marrying a foreign spouse’

38Government restrictions are unlawfully preventing “something like half the working population” from any possibility of marrying a foreign spouse and bringing them to UK, the Supreme Court has been told.
The highest court in the land is hearing legal challenges to immigration rules that require a UK sponsor to have a minimum gross annual income of £18,600 before they can apply for partners from non-EEA (European Economic Area) states to join them.
The Divided Families Campaign, whose members demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building in Parliament Square, central London, as the hearing began, say the Home Secretary’s policy is “obstructing family reunion for tens of thousands of people”.
Previous rules only required a couple to show they could maintain themselves without recourse to public funds.
A High Court judge ruled the Home Secretary’s 2012 introduction of the “minimum income requirement (MIR)”, which increases if children are also brought in, was an unjustified interference with human rights.
Mr Justice Blake said the requirement amounted to a ”disproportionate interference with a genuine spousal relationship”.
But the Court of Appeal allowed the Home Secretary’s appeal in July 2014. Three appeal judges ruled Theresa May had struck “a fair balance” after analysing the effect of the immigration of non-EEA partners and dependant children on the benefits system and “the link between better income and greater chances of integration”.
Now seven Supreme Court justices are to make a final ruling after hearing three days of legal submissions in four separate cases.
The cases include judicial review applications brought by two British citizens, referred to as AM and SJ, who cannot meet the requirement and MM, a refugee from the Lebanon in a similar position, and his nephew AF.
Manjit GIll QC, appearing for MM, submitted to the seven justices – Lady Hale, Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge – that the approach of the Home Secretary to rule making was “unlawful”, and the current scheme was not compatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which protects the right to “private and family life”.
The Government measures amounted to “an unlawful interference with core human rights” and the minimum income level had been set “unreasonably high”, said Mr Gill.
The QC stated: “Parliament could not have intended the rule-making power to be used in such a way that it disentitles something in the region of half the working population from any possibility of being able to marry a foreign spouse”.
In another case, SS, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is challenging a refusal of entry clearance as the spouse of a refugee who became a naturalised British citizen, but whose earnings are below £18,600.
Immigration tribunals allowed her appeal under Article 8 (right to private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the appeal court ruled she had not demonstrated “compelling circumstances” justifying the granting of entry clearance.