Ethnic minority communities in the UK face clampdown on visits from members of their family living abroad.
Six national organisations – Citizens Advice, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, the Law Society, the Immigration Advisory Service and the Legal Action Group – have written to the home and foreign secretaries to demand an explanation for the massive increase in refusals of family visit visas – particularly marked in countries of the Far and Middle East in the latter half of 2002. These refusals are having a negative impact on the emotional well-being and family life of many ethnic minority communities in the UK, they say.
Applications down, refusals soar
Research compiled by Citizens Advice criticises the fact that family members of Britain’s ethnic minority communities are increasingly being prevented from visiting relatives in the UK.
The findings, which were based on information provided by Ukvisas, show that since the abolition of the associated appeals fee in the middle of 2002, the overall family visitor refusal rate rose by 34 per cent. This increase in the overall refusal rate occurred despite a fall in applications for visas. Refusals predominate in certain regions such as South Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe and the Far East. In New Delhi for instance the rate of visa refusal doubled from 29 per cent in January to 59.4 per cent by 31 July; in Tehran the refusal rate increased threefold, while in Dhaka, it rose to 84.5 per cent. So far, there has been no concrete reason given to explain these increases and the fact, that at some posts, the refusal rate is as high as 100 per cent.
The home secretary had ordered a review of visa applications, on the assumption that the abolition of the fee for appeals would cause a substantial hike in the number of unfounded family visa applications – which inevitably would result in many refusals. But this preconception actually runs counter to the reality portrayed in the Citizens Advice research report. For instead of the anticipated increase in applications, there has been a stark reduction in the number of applicants and, at the same time, a tremendous increase in the number of visa refusals. For instance, in Mumbai, where the rate of refusal rose by 104 per cent, the applications fell by 33 percent and in Moscow, where the refusal rate rose by 124 per cent, the application rate fell by 13 per cent.
Quality of decisions questioned
The quality of the decision-making by entry clearance officers is also queried in the research because of the fact that 50 per cent of all appeals against original refusal are successful. In fact, at oral hearings 70 per cent of refused applicants, a huge number, win their appeals.
Citizens Advice has written to ministers at the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as the Lords Chancellor’s Department (LCD) drawing their attention to the rise of 34 per cent in the overall refusal rates for family visa applications since 1 August 2002. An immigration policy officer from Citizens Advice told IRR news that the rate of refusals for the first three months of this year is still ‘appallingly high’ and ‘no credible or satisfactory explanation for the steady increase’ has been provided by ministers.