LONDON (Reuters) - Britain plans to tighten up rules on admitting relatives of migrants, cracking down on abuses used to gain entry to the country such as sham and forced marriages, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.
Cameron, who wants to prevent newcomers from relying on Britain’s comprehensive welfare system, said that family migration accounted for almost a fifth of total non-EU immigration to Britain last year.
The Conservatives want to reduce net migration to Britain from around 200,000 people per year to a figure of tens of thousands which they argue is more manageable.
Restricting migration is seen as a way of reducing pressure on public spending at a time when the coalition is making deep cuts in public spending.
The policy appeals to the rConservatives but has caused friction with the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner.
Cameron said the government wanted to ensure that people bringing their relatives into Britain had enough money to support them.
“We’re going to look at further measures to ensure financial independence: discounting promises of support from family and friends, and whether a financial bond would be appropriate in some cases,” he said in advance excerpts of a speech he will make Monday.
“We’re also consulting on how to tackle abuse of the system, to make sure that family migrants who come here are in a genuine relationship with their partner.”
Cameron gave an example of a Pakistani man granted a visa on the basis of his marriage to someone settled in Britain.
“He obtained indefinite leave to remain and then immediately divorced his UK-based spouse. He returned to Pakistan and re-married and then applied for entry clearance for his new spouse,” he added.
“We simply cannot sit back and allow the system to be abused in this way. So we will make migrants wait longer, to show they really are in a genuine relationship before they can get settlement.”
Cameron said breaching rules intended to prevent forced marriage would be made a criminal offence and tougher controls could follow.
“I am also asking the Home Secretary to consult on making forcing someone to marry an offence in its own right - working closely with those who provide support to women forced into marriage to make sure that such a step would not prevent or hinder them from reporting what has happened to them,” he said.
Reporting by Keith Weir