European ruling challenges UK immigration law

A RULING by the European Community's highest court yesterday has questioned the legality of a key principle of British immigration law.

It has undermined the 'primary purpose rule' enshrined 10 years ago in the Immigration Act, which lays down that when foreigners married to British citizens come to live in this country, they must prove that the marriage's primary purpose was not just to win the right of residence.

This controversial rule is much stricter than the equivalent European Community principle, which allows all EC citizens to bring spouse and children with them when they move to another EC country, no matter what the primary purpose of the marriage.

Yesterday's decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg establishes that a British citizen who comes home after a period of working elsewhere in the EC can claim the same rights as citizens of other Community countries. As a result, the Government may well find its primary purpose rule struck down by the court if it tries to apply it to the spouses of British citizens who have worked elsewhere in Europe.

The ruling was welcomed by immigration and human rights organisations yesterday. 'This judgment has the potential to drive a coach and horses through the 'primary purpose' marriage rule which has caused family division and heartbreak for UK citizens for more than a decade,' Claude Moraes, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said.

Although some politicians were yesterday voicing concern that the ruling undermined Britain's right to control immigration, Nuala Mole, director of Interights, the human rights group, said: 'This judgment upgrades the rights of British citizens to bring them in line with other Community nationals, when they enter the UK.'

The nub of yesterday's case was whether Rashpal Purewal, a British citizen, had the right to bring her husband, Surinder Singh, back to Britain with her after working in Germany between 1983 and 1985. Had she been a citizen of another EC country, her right would have not been in dispute. But the Government applied British, rather than EC, law to her case.

When she and Mr Singh began divorce proceedings in 1987, the authorities cut short his leave to stay in Britain. They issued a deportation order against him in 1988, even though his divorce had not yet become absolute.

In deciding that EC law should take precedence - and thus that the decision to deport Mr Singh was wrong - the court said that one of the aims of the Treaty of Rome which set up the EC was to abolish obstacles to freedom of movement inside the Community.

If the Government's policy were allowed to stand, Britons might be deterred from working in other EC countries by the fear that they might be separated from their spouse - or their children - on their return.

Because it applies only to Britons who have worked elsewhere in the EC, the ruling is believed unlikely to produce a wave of new immigrants.

But in those cases where British citizens come home married after working elsewhere in the EC, immigration officers are likely to lose the right to ask what was the primary purpose of the marriage.

The judgment is unlikely to affect Mr Singh, however. According to his counsel, he is still living in Britain, but is now married to another British citizen.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee