Immigration and Nationality Application Fees — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:56 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Imran Hussain Imran Hussain Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections) 1:56 pm, 25th March 2021

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in this important debate, Mr McCabe. Bradford is a proud city of sanctuary that has for generations welcomed people of all backgrounds from all over the world with open arms, whatever their circumstances, and as the Member representing it I will continue to speak out on the issue until we have a system that treats people with fairness and compassion. However, under the present Government we sadly do not see a shred of fairness or compassion. It is sincerely lacking in almost every policy that comes from the Home Office.

As I set out last year in a debate on the Immigration Act 2020, the complex rules that force applicants to jump through countless hoops, the requirement for incomes above the national average, in some parts of the country, and the fees that mean that applicants must have thousands of pounds stored away, all show us exactly what the Government think about a caring, compassionate immigration system—and about migrants. They think that just because people are in the wrong circumstances, in low-paid roles or with few savings, they do not deserve to be with the ones they love. Their failure even to address those points in the last year and longer, which deeply pains me and many of my constituents, proves that.

As to fees in particular, a partner wishing to bring their spouse and children to the UK faces paying thousands of pounds in visa fees, immigration health surcharges and biometrics appointments. All the fees are beyond what it takes to administer those things. That means that someone somewhere makes a tidy profit from human misery and from reuniting families. Of more concern in relation to the Government’s human rights record, as my hon. Friend Tahir Ali said, the Home Office has failed to take action following a decision by the High Court in December 2019, well over a year ago, that declared that the £1,000-plus fee for children to be registered as British citizens is unlawful. The fee is still being charged and we still do not know when the Government will put an end to it and whether they will compensate the families who have been charged that unlawful fee in the past.

On top of that, we have the bizarre situation in which it costs a British national more to bring their foreign national spouse to the UK than it costs a foreign national in the UK to do the same. I ask the Minister: how does that make any sense? Yet not only does a family face excessive fees stretching to thousands of pounds—which are not a one-off payment but must be paid again and again on renewal—but the level of service to applicants does not match the amount they must pay. They struggle to get appointments for biometric cards. They, or their legal representatives, cannot get hold of decision makers or others in the Home Office, forcing them to rely on MPs’ offices, and there are significant delays between applications, processing and the delivery of visas. As a result, we are very, very far from seeing anything that even resembles value for money in the Home Office’s practices.

During the coronavirus crisis, people have recognised just how agonising the forced separation of families truly is. Although the crisis will come to an end for many of us as coronavirus rules and restrictions are relaxed, it will not end for the families that the Government’s rules and fees keep apart. Instead, their heartbreak continues. So, too, does the hostile environment that the Government have created for people who want to come to this country to make a better life for their family, and who, let us not forget, already live and work here.

Finally, I urge the Minister to listen to the thousands of families up and down the country who want nothing more than to be one whole family living together.