Migration campaigners have condemned a law that will require non-EU citizens entering the UK on spousal visas to pass an English language test. As the law came into force yesterday (29 November), protesters marched from Victoria Street in Westminster to the Home Office.
The Immigration Minister, Damian Green, said that the new rules “will help ensure that migrant spouses are able to participate in British life from the outset and integrate more easily into our society”.
But groups supporting migrant rights are concerned that the law will unfairly impede those who have no access to English lessons in their country of origin, or cannot afford them.
The demonstration was called by the group No One is Illegal, with the support of the London No Borders campaign, who commented, “This law will affect those from areas of the world where English classes are not available, or who can’t afford to pay for such classes. It extends the reach of the UK Border Agency to spouses’ countries of origin.”
At the Home Office, protesters handed out leaflets to passers-by and re-created a UK border on the pavement. They held warning tape between them and asked members of the public to take an English language or citizenship test to pass through. Other protesters dressed as a bride and groom to represent couples who will be separated because of the new law.
Protesters described the legislation as a “racist law”, as it affects only those coming from non-EU countries, and expressed concern about the implications for migrant women, as it is they who more often arrive in the UK on spousal visas.
The law was initially proposed two years ago by Labour ministers, but has been implemented by the current government amid pledges to significantly reduce the number of immigrants to the UK.