Immigration Rules Minefield
Radhika Handa Policy and Campaign Officer at Southall Black Sisters speaking to Eastern Eye.
The 5,700-plus changes to immigration rules since 2010 have led to rocketing legal fees and more mistakes being made by officials, according to campaigners.
They have hit out at the “complex” visa system after it emerged the rules have more than doubled in length to nearly 375,000 words.
The Home Office has published new sets of changes a week apart or less on seven occasions. The overall number of changes made to the rules since 2010 spans almost 600,000 words.
Radhika Handa, legal policy and campaigns officer for the Southall Black Sisters campaign group, told Eastern Eye:
“Our worry is the immigration rules are becoming more difficult to navigate. “At a time when the rules are becoming complex, the number of authorised legal aid providers is reducing across the country.
“In a broader context, you also have the hostile environment policy for immigrants, cuts to services and legal aid preventing vulnerable people getting the help they need and regularising their status.
“Legal aid for asylum cases has decimated, so finding a specialist lawyer is near impossible.
“We are worried as without regularising immigrant status, they become an illegal and lose a lot of rights.”
More than 1,300 changes were made in 2012 when Theresa May was home secretary. One document was published in 2014 with 22 changes, only to be updated three days later by a second version containing a further 250 changes.
It comes after figures showed the refusal rate for migrants applying to stay in the UK after suffering domestic violence more than doubled between 2012 and 2016.
Amjad Malik, a solicitor in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, told Eastern Eye: “I am concerned to note so many changes
in the immigration rules.
“New measures and laws on top of another law without having a study on previous laws has been the practice of Home Office and it is always a futile exercise.
“They should clear the backlog of thousands of failed asylum seekers and overstayers, introduce rules with plain language with an appeal right intact to a judge to ensure a judicial oversight.
“The law is becoming an expensive business, out of the reach for the lay man who is struggling to read between the lines of the rules as they are too complicated.
“The right to appeal to a judge is pivotal to correct half of the follies of the Home Office, but the administration is reluctant to get their decisions seen by a judge and risk getting it overturned on poor decision-making.”
The Law Commission is currently simplifying the rules. The review, which began in December, will make recommendations to make the laws clearer for Home Office caseworkers and the courts.
Satbir Singh is chief executive of The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.
He said: “Repeated changes to the immigration rules since 2010 have led to a situation in which people simply cannot navigate the system and Home Office officials frequently make mistakes in their decisions.
“Anybody attempting to reunite with a spouse or an elderly parent, or to get a visitor visa for their in-laws will know just how difficult it can be to make even the simplest application without shelling out thousands of pounds for a lawyer.
“Most people simply can’t afford to do that. The result is that large sections of our communities are denied their rights and struggle to get justice.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The number of individual changes to immigration rules should not be used as an indicator of the number of policy changes.
“Many changes to the rules involve minor corrections, such as changes to individual words.
“Changes to the immigration rules are made for a variety of reasons, including to deliver critical policies that support broader government priorities, including health and the economy, and to respond to the needs of those who use immigration services.
“They are laid in parliament and significant changes are then communicated to stakeholders.”