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Family forced to live apart for two years

ANGELA'S two children live in Britain. Her husband lives in a European capital. For the past two years Britain's immigration laws have prevented them all living together as a family, writes Heather Mills.

Angela, five months pregnant, has taken up residence abroad with her husband, while making numerous trips back to England to visit her children from her first marriage, who are now living with a relative.

She says has been forced out of the country she was born in because immigration officials refuse to accept her second marriage is genuine. Like other Englishmen and women, she has turned to other European Community countries to live with the person she loves.

Yesterday's European Court ruling, which gives her equal rights with other community nationals, means that her family will now be able to reunite in England.

Until the ruling they were split by the 'primary purpose' rule, invoked to deny her African husband entry into England. 'Primary purpose' is not the same as a marriage of convenience or sham marriage. Blatant rule- breaking is dealt with by different legislation. With primary purpose, immigration officers accept that a couple have a genuine relationship, but they look at the history of the marriage to decide whether a primary motive may be a desire to live in the UK. They can apply it even when couples, sometimes with children, have been married for many years before moving to Britain.

Welfare advisers have condemned primary purpose because any final decision over the marriage is subjective. They say it inflicts cruelty on couples and families who genuinely want to be together. Those advisers will now be telling couples and families, split because of a primary purpose ruling to try to obtain temporary residence in Europe to enhance their rights, before reapplying to enter Britain.