Appeals against the decision of immigration officials to refuse family visas to enter the UK have increased eight fold since charges were abolished by the government in 2002 and are now running at over a thousand a week. They cost the taxpayer £1m a week, says a report from think-tank Migrationwatch.
Unlike ordinary visitors, "family visitors" have a right of appeal but the definition of "family" includes first cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces etc.
The report notes that there has been a huge increase in applications in recent years. Last year, just three countries – India, Pakistan and Nigeria – produced nearly 200,000 applications between them.
Said Migrationwatch Chairman, Sir Andrew Green. 'The government talk up their so-called tough points based system for work permits but leave gaping holes elsewhere. They have ducked the issue of family visitors for years. Obviously, family members should be able to visit relatives in Britain but such visits need to be properly regulated. There is a clear risk that, once here, some of these visitors will stay on illegally knowing that the chance of being removed is remote. Furthermore, in current financial circumstances, it is no longer acceptable that taxpayers should pay the appeal costs for foreign nationals wishing to visit Britain. The definition of a family visitor is so wide that it could include as many as 120 relatives of a middle aged person in Britain. It should be narrowed and charges which the government abolished in 2002 should be re-introduced.
Sir Andrew said that urgent changes were required:
a Fees should be re-instated. There is no reason why the British tax payer should pay the appeal costs of foreign visitors.
b The definition should be substantially tightened, at least until exit controls are in place. In particular, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and first cousins should no longer be included. This would reduce the number of eligible relatives by up to 68.
c The right to sponsor family visitors should be confined to British citizens. The relatives of others should apply as ordinary visitors.
d In cases of doubt, there should be provision for sponsors to deposit a bond, if they so wished, to guarantee the departure of their relative.