Midlands families split in immigration clampdown
- 27 January 2016
- From the section England
It remains the hottest talking point on the doorsteps and it's showing no sign of cooling down.
The government's target of bringing net immigration down below 100,000 a year looks further away than ever, and the EU migration crisis is threatening to turn this into a perfect storm. If ministers have limited powers to stem the flow of people from around the EU, is it any wonder they clamp down extra hard on immigration from elsewhere in the world?
Tougher rules in force since in July 2012 mean thousands of families are living apart. You need to earn at least £18,600 a year plus £3,800 a year for each child for your spouse to move here permanently. Campaigners say almost half the population would not meet these figures. Some families are left having to use online video messaging to keep in touch during their years apart, while the British spouse tries to find a job that brings in enough money for their loved ones overseas to be able to join them here.
Between 2012 and 2014 nearly 30,000 families have been refused visas. That's about a quarter of all applicants.
"Exiled in their own country"
We've been hearing some of the human stories behind the statistics.
David Summers lives in Hereford having moved back from Canada to care for his mother. His Canadian wife has been refused entry because they do not meet the income requirements. They have been married for 45 years. Now David is seriously ill and his wife is unable to be with him when he undergoes surgery.
Lorraine and Willem van Vuuren are a married couple living in Malvern, Worcestershire. She is English; he is South African. Lorraine's income is below the minimum threshold, so Willem will have to leave the country within months.
The government says the new controls are necessary to control immigration from outside the EU. It points to a sharp fall in the number of applications as an indication the new rules are working.
Or could it just be that restrictions are deterring people from applying in the first place?
I'll be examining the politics of all this with our studio guests: Robin Walker MP, Conservative, Worcester; and Jess Phillips MP Labour, Birmingham Yardley.
Join us for this weekend's Sunday Politics Midlands at 11.00 GMT on BBC One on Sunday, 31 January.