Thursday, July 28, 2011

Requiring immigrants to speak English 'breaches human rights,' claims couple as they launch legal bid to overturn ruling

A new immigration rule requiring people to be able to speak English to move to the UK to be with their spouse is a breach of human rights, a court heard today.

A couple have launched a judicial review at the High Court to challenge the rule, which they claim contravenes their rights to a family life, their right to marry and constitutes discrimination.

British citizen Rashida Chapti, 54, and husband Vali Chapti, 57, are applying for him to join her in the UK.

Legal fight: Rashida Chapti, holding a picture of her children, has gone to the High Court to fight a ruling that her husband Vali must learn English before he will be allowed to remain in the UK

The couple have been married for 37 years and have six children together. Mr Chapti is an Indian national and does not speak, read or write English.

Mrs Chapti has reportedly been travelling between India and Leicester for around 15 years but has now applied for her husband to come and live in the UK with her.

But under new immigration rules announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in June 2010, he cannot do so due to a new English language requirement for migrants applying to come or stay in the UK as a spouse.

But the Chaptis, along with two other couples, have launched proceedings to contest it.

The rule, which came into force in November last year, is thought to be part of the Government's pledge to reduce net migration.

At the High Court sitting in Birmingham, Manjit Gill QC, representing the couple, told the court the requirement was a breach of their human rights.

He said it contravenes 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, to be free of discrimination.

Mr Gill said: 'The rule is particularly striking in that it prevents mere residence even though one of the parties is fully entitled to live in this country.'

He said the rule discriminated against people on the grounds of nationality and 'race discrimination'.

'It may be that the Secretary of State is able to show at that point that such a requirement is proportionate interference with the rights in question.'

He went on: 'There may be reasons, where the Secretary of State is concerned, that for those who are already here, before he allows them to gain a benefit such as indefinite leave to remain, or citizenship, that 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 the measure prevented people who are 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.'

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