A COUPLE have lodged a legal challenge to a new immigration rule that the husband cannot join his spouse of 37 years in England unless he can speak English.
In a test judicial review in the High Court the couple say that the rule contravenes their right to a family life and their right to marry and constitutes discrimination.
Rashida Chapti, 54, a British citizen, and her husband Vali Chapti, 57, who have six children, are applying for him to join her in Britain.
Mr Chapti is an Indian citizen and does not speak, read or write English. Mrs Chapti is reported to have been travelling between India and Leicester for about 15 years and has now applied for her husband to be able to live in England with her.
But under new immigration rules announced by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, in June last year, he cannot do so because of a new English language requirement for migrants applying to come or stay in England as a spouse.
The rule, which took effect last November, is part of the government’s strategy to cut immigration abuse and foster integration. But the Chaptis, along with two other couples, have launched proceedings to contest it.
At the High Court in Birmingham, Manjit Gill, QC, representing the couple, told the court that the requirement was a breach of their human rights. He said that it contravened several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 8, the right to family life; Article 12, the right to marry; and Article 14, the right to be free of discrimination.
Mr Gill said: “The rule is striking in that it prevents mere residence even though one of the parties is fully entitled to live in this country.”
The rule also discriminated against people on the grounds of nationality and “race discrimination”. He added: “There may be reasons, where the Secretary of State is concerned, that [s]he is entitled to ask that they show some understanding of the language and some knowledge of life in the UK so that at that stage integration is assisted.”
But he said that the measure prevented people who were British citizens and settled in the country from living with their partners, adding: “That vice is compounded by the fact that the measure does this on grounds which are blatantly, admittedly, racially discriminatory.”
Mr Gill said the three couples in the case were married but the argument could also be applied to couples intending to marry, because Article 8 protected the right of a British citizen and those settled in the UK to develop a family life.
He said that the rule discriminated against people because of their race and nationality, and would particularly affect people from the Indian sub-continent or parts of the Middle East. Those targeted by the rule were “people of certain ethnic origins”, he said. “Nationality and non-English-speaking are all linked up with concepts of race and ethnicity. The discrimination is being drawn on grounds which are racially discriminatory in a pejorative sense.
“This discrimination has a very significant impact on certain categories of British nationals or long-term settled persons here. The rule is targeting purposefully the Indian sub-continent and parts of the Middle East. It is those communities who have claimed citizenship in this country. It’s these communities who are going to be most obviously affected by this and the discrimination on grounds of race is therefore stark and obvious.
“The rule is designed, putting it crudely, to keep out persons who tend to marry within their communities, who tend to have arranged marriages.” He said that the need for the language requirement would have to be justified very specifically.
The suggestions that the rule would help integration and would save the public purse had not been proved, and he said that the evidence was “vague and unclear”. He added: “It is not just small numbers here or there who will be affected, it is very significant numbers of people.”
The case is the first of its kind and Liberty, the human rights group, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have been granted permission to intervene and make submissions.
The case at the Priory Courts in Birmingham continues.