Cameron: migrant families could be broken up and mums deported if failed English test

David Cameron AP
David Cameron AP



Families could be broken up and mothers deported after years of living in Britain if they fail a new mandatory English language test, David Cameron has confirmed.

The Prime Minister today outlined plans to language-test all spouses who immigrate join their partner living in Britain two and a half years after they arrive here.

Failing the language test could lead to the new arrival’s right to stay in the UK being revoked and them being sent back to their country of origin, he said.

Mr Cameron was asked during an interview whether a woman who came to the UK under the spousal settlement programme and had children in Britain could still be deported.

“They can’t guarantee that they’ll be able to stay,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We’re now going to toughen up so half-way through the spousal settlement programme – two and a half years – there’ll be another opportunity to make sure your English is improving.

“You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stay if you’re not improving your language. It is tough but people coming to our country have responsibility too.”

Children born in the UK who have one parent “settled” in the UK automatically receive British citizenship and would therefore be allowed to remain in the UK with their fathers, while their mothers were not.

The spousal settlement visa, to which the new English language test applies, requires that the person with whom the new arrival is coming to live is already settled. This means all children born to a couple using a spousal settlement visa have British citizenship.

There is also no guarantee that children born Britain citizens would have a right to live in another country –  meaning that in some cases mothers might be unable to take their children back to live with them in their country of origin.

Despite the new emphasis on forcing women to learn English Mr Cameron admitted that his government had actually previously cut funding for English-language tuition for migrants. He blamed the deficit for the policy.

“Yes, budgets did come down in the past because all budgets were under pressure because of the enormous deficit and the need to pay that down,” he told the same programme.

“I think we had to make difficult decisions. Now what we’re doing is targeting the language money – it is for those who are in the greatest level of isolation.”

The Government has emphasised Muslim women as the target of the policy. Ministers say some are living in “isolated” communities and do not learn English.

The Government claims 190,000 Muslim women lack adequate English language skills and that 38,000 do not speak any English at all.

“If you don’t speak the language your opportunities are very much reduced,” Mr Cameron said.

“Saying to people who come to our country that learning English is essential.”

The policy, to be launched in October, is the latest in a series announced by the Government that is likely to make life difficult for immigrants living in Britain.

Theresa May was last week urged to re-think a “discriminatory” new £35,000 earnings threshold for non-EU migrants who want to settle in the UK.

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