As has been widely reported in the mainstream media, the Government proposes to scrap family visitor appeal rights. Again. The change is intended to come into full effect in 2014 but as early as July 2012 the definition of ‘family’ will be narrowed to exclude cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces or nephews. See the press release here. The full abolition is to be effected in yet another piece of legislation with a title that cements the subliminal link between crime and immigration, the Crime and Courts Bill.
The justification is cost saving at both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office. Appeal fees were introduced last December so increasing those would be another way of addressing that particular issue at the MOJ. Presenting Officers are like hen’s teeth at the moment and are never instructed for family visit appeals as far as I can ascertain, so fighting the appeals isn’t exactly costing a lot at the Home Office either.
In addition the Government proposes to curtail in-country appeal rights against decisions to vary a person’s leave where in the Home Office’s view it is not conducive to the public good for the person to have leave to enter or remain in the UK and to increase Immigration Officer powers yet further.
Those with long memories, or like me who read this recent Guardian article by Alan Travis, will remember that visitor appeal rights were last abolished by Ken Clarke under the last Conservative government back in the 1990s on the basis that they were not a matter of life or death The right of appeal was restored by Labour as a manifesto commitment.
Any lawyers serious about fighting this change should consider joining ILPA and contributing to the lobbying effort. But, despite Damien Green’s revolting comments about family visit appeals being “an absolute goldmine for immigration lawyers”, it won’t be the lawyers who suffer. This should do our judicial review practices no end of good, as an application for judicial review will be the only means by which a visit visa refusal can be challenged in future. It is ethnic minorities who will lose out as their relatives are denied visas to visit for weddings, funerals and other family events. Family is important to this Government, as long as your family isn’t foreign.