Research Supporting Legislative Changes in Family Migration
Submitting InstitutionMiddlesex University
Unit of AssessmentSocial Work and Social Policy
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Law and Legal Studies: Law
Summary of the impact
The impact has its origins in work carried out by social policy (Kofman) and legal (Wray, Howard)
academics from the mid-2000s which challenged existing conceptualisations of family migration,
the absence of gender considerations and the evidential basis for national and European policy in
This research has culminated since 2011 in an influential intervention in debates on restrictions on
spousal migration, especially relating to income requirements, in Parliament, amongst NGOs and
the public, and on the form and outcome of legal proceedings which challenged the compatibility of
immigration rules restricting spousal migration with human rights and non-discrimination norms.
The impact therefore takes the form of significant contribution to legal challenges and policy debate
that are creating impetus for reform.
Kofman has been driving academic debate on family migration for the past decade and was
amongst the first to offer a gender critique of policy and to draw attention to the inadequate
conceptualisation of family migration. This work set the framework for subsequent investigation by
other migration scholars and she was subsequently invited to collaborate in research projects
funded by the Austrian Ministry of Research (NODE Programme - New Orientations for Democracy
in Europe) (1) and the EU Integration Fund (2). These investigated the formulation of and strategic
responses to family migration controls throughout Europe, particularly in their discriminatory effects
on women. On the basis of these studies, she wrote a report for the European Women's Lobby (3),
to be used in their response to the consultation on a potential redrafting of the EU Family
Reunification Directive in 2011.
Wray has been working on the regulation of family migration since the mid-2000s. Her focus has
been the relationship between policy aims and legislative change and the role of the courts in
determining the limits of government control over family migration. Her article `An Ideal Husband'
(4) analysed the inadequate evidential basis for government policy that dramatically interfered with
the ability of migrants to marry in the UK. Her subsequent work (5) has deepened and extended
the range of this analysis.
Wray's experience of critical policy analysis led to her being invited in 2011 to provide expert
evidence in a judicial review of a new rule which required incoming spouses to take an English
language test before entry. Leading a team of three (Charsley, Clift and Jordan, not at Middlesex),
she drew on her knowledge of the academic literature and her skills and experience of policy
analysis to write a lengthy expert report and witness statements for the proceedings. This case
was heard, first in the High Court (Chapti and others v SSHD  EWHC 3370 Admin) and then
in the Court of Appeal (Bibi and another v SSHD  EWCA Civ 322). Wray et al's report
showed that the test would not confer the linguistic benefits claimed for it and that there were
serious practical issues involved in its implementation that would make it much more difficult for
spouses from some countries to gain entry.
New regulations for family migration from 9 July 2012, especially the income requirement of
£18,600 per annum for sponsors, have had a discriminatory impact on the ability of British citizens
and residents to live in the UK with their partners. It was estimated that 61% of British women in
iemployment would be unable to bring in spouses (Oxford Migration Observatory). Applications fell
from 25,664 in the 6 months preceding the introduction of the rule to 10,854 in the 6 months after,
and with a much higher rate of rejection, especially for women. In 2012, Wray, together with
Kofman and Howard, an expert on national and European anti discrimination legislation (6), were
approached to write an extensive expert report used as the background material for the legal case
submitted to the High Court and discussed below (MM and Ors v SSHD  EWHC 1900
(Admin). This demonstrated that the high financial threshold required for spouses to be sponsored
was well above the minimum adult wage (£13,400) and meant that it was likely to be incompatible
with human rights and discrimination laws and would particularly affect those on low incomes,
women, minority ethnic groups, young people or living outside of London. It also questioned the
Government's assertion that the new regulations represented a saving on welfare expenditure and
argued that income requirements on foreign spouses could be putting an additional burden on the
References to the research
These outputs are either in highly rated journals and book series or have been extensively
reviewed by the commissioning organisations.
1) Kofman, E,. A. Kraler, M. Kohli and C. Schmoll (2011) ` Issues and debates on family-related
migration and the migrant family: European perspectives' In A. Kraler, et al. (eds)
Gender, Generations and the Family in International Migration, University of Amsterdam
Press, pp.13-54 (Introduction based on the Austrian Ministry of Research programme
(NODE) project Civic Stratification, Gender and Family Migration Policies in Europe
2) Kofman, E. and Meetoo, V (2008) `Family migrations' in International Organization for
Migration World Migration 2007: Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global
Economy, ch. 6, International Organization for Migration, Geneva.
4) Wray, H. (2006) 'An Ideal Husband? Marriages of Convenience, Moral gatekeeping and
Immigration to the UK', European Journal of Migration and Law, 8, 303-320.
5) Wray, H. (2009) `Moulding the Migrant Family', Legal Studies 29(4): 592-618.
6) Howard, E. (2011) `EU Equality Law: Three Recent Developments', European Law Journal
17 (6), 785-803.
Details of the impact
Impact on legal practice and capacity building: Wray's report in Chapti was placed on the
website of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) where it could be used to support
appeals brought by other claimants (http://jcwi.org.uk/2011/12/16/chapti-ors-v-sshd-pre-entry-language-test-judgment).
Wray was also asked to provide support in other court proceedings and
received unsolicited emails from lawyers thanking her for the quality and usefulness of her work.
Wray (2011) and Kofman (2012) were asked to present to the AGMs of the JCWI, their work for
these reports, in each case addressing an audience of over 100 lawyers and activists from across
the UK. In 2011, Wray addressed about 40 immigration lawyers at a meeting convened by the
Immigration Law Practitioners Association and in 2013 at the Migrants' Rights' Network (MRN)
Annual Summit (5.1), addressing about 100 activists. Their work was cited by Habib Rahman,
Chief Executive of JCWI, in a keynote speech to the Oxford Migration Studies Conference in 2013
(5.2). It has also been posted and highly recommended on the Asylum and Migrant Network
(Council of Churches) (5.3) and Britcitz websites, thus reaching out to a wider public and those
affected by the changes.
Impact on public debate: Working closely with several leading NGOs in the campaign against the
new regulations (MRN, JCWI) (5.1, 5.2)), the findings of the judgement and the critique of the
potential savings to welfare expenditure made by Middlesex researchers have been widely
reported in the BBC, regional and national newspapers, for example, — the Belfast Telegraph and
the Daily Express (http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/413433/Warning-on-migration-shake-up-cost) — and
on politics.co.uk (5.4). This dissemination has made a significant contribution to
campaigns and debates inside and outside Parliament which is creating considerable momentum
for reform of the rule (see below).
Parliamentary impact: Based on their work, Kofman and Wray made a joint submission on the
new income requirement to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration (APPG) in its Family
Migration Enquiry. In March 2013, Wray gave oral evidence to the Enquiry at the House of
Commons and its quality was singled out for praise by its Chair, Baroness Hamwee (5.5). Their
submission was cited at several points in the Enquiry Report (June 2013) and received widespread
publicity. In addition, the essential points of their evidence were put into a joint briefing with
Minority Rights Network which was circulated to all MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on
19th June 2013. Kate Green, MP Stretford and Urmston, made extensive use of the evidence
during her contribution to the debate (5.6). The briefing was later circulated to Peers ahead of a
Lords debate on 4th July 2013 and formed the basis of a press release timed to coincide with a
national demonstration and parliamentary meeting on 9th July. There is evidence of growing
political pressure to amend the rule (http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/blog/2013/09/tide-beginning-turn-family-migration).
Impact on court proceedings: The first set of expert reports and witness statements, on the
compatibility of pre-entry language testing with human rights, was submitted in the case of Chapti.
This high profile test case was argued not only by the parties but by JCWI and the civil liberties
organisation, Liberty, whose counsel, relied on the report in their submissions (5.7). Wray was
thanked by the lawyers involved for the quality of her work which in particular underpinned a key
argument relating to the nature of discrimination in this situation (5.8). Although the initial judgment
found against the claimants in this regard as did the majority of the Court of Appeal (Bibi v SSHD),
in a dissenting judgment, Keene LJ, took a different view and relied on Wray's evidence to find
that the Government had not met its obligations to show the necessity of the rule and therefore its
compliance with human rights. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court has been sought and there
is a good possibility that the question of the weight to be attached to expert evidence in cases of
this kind will form the basis of a decision by the UK's highest domestic court as to the lawfulness of
the pre-entry language test and therefore its applicability to thousands of spousal migrants entering
The judgement on MM and Ors vs SSHD, delivered on 5 July 2013, found that the combination of
the new regulations was disproportionate, unjust and unduly harsh for a wide range of the
population, especially young people, women and those on low incomes and would therefore
breach article 8 ECHR in many cases. The judgment drew in many places on the findings and
arguments in our expert report (5.8).
Impact on Family Migrant Sponsors and Spouses: In response to the MM judgment, the Home
Office called a pause in the decision making of applications pending its appeal against the
judgment. If the judgment is upheld by the higher courts, the government will be required, under
the Human Rights Act, either to change the law or to legislate and risk an unfavourable judgment in
the European Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, the findings in the judgement on article 8
incompatibility in most cases is assisting many applicants whose claims have already been
rejected because they do not meet the income threshold to appeal their individual claims
Impact on European policy: Kofman's report on family reunion legislation in Europe was relied on
by the European Women's Lobby (EWL), the largest non-governmental umbrella organisation of
some 2000 women's associations in the European Union and the European Network of Migrant
Women (ENoMW) — a European network of more than 100 non-governmental and non-profit
organisations from 16 European Union states in their response to the European Commission
Green Paper on the Right to Family Reunification of Third Country Nationals Living in the
European Union (Directive 2003/86/EC). The EWL submission (5.9) cites from Kofman's report at
length and explicitly recognises her research. The report states `Facts and figures in this response
to the Green Paper are mainly based on the research by Prof. Eleonore Kofman, Middlesex
University, London. She has accompanied and advised EWL's EPIM funded project on: "Equal
Rights. Equal Voices. Migrant Women in the EU" from 2008-2011.' The submission by the
EWL/ENoMW informed debate among stakeholders who were invited to submit comments.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Policy Officer Migration Rights Network
- Director JCWI
- Churches Refugee Network. Middlesex University report Divided families; some more
divided than others Submission to the APPG on Migration — Family Migration Inquiry on their
resources section http://www.ctbi.org.uk/96 (April 2013).
- Revealed: The financial cost of Theresa May's immigration policy, http://tinyurl.com/qyb6j4l
- Chair, Family Migration Enquiry, All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration and Co-Chair of
the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities
- Vice Chair APPG on Migration, Shadow Minister for Equalities, HC Deb, 19 June 2013,
state-for-the-home-department-court-of-appeal-2011.pdf (reference by Liberty to Helena
Wray's submission to the Chapti case)
- A lead Counsel in Chapti/Bibi and MM.
- Submission of the European Women's Lobby (EWL) and the European Network of Migrant
Women (ENoMW) in Response of the Green Paper on the Right to Family Reunification of
third country nationals living in the European Union, 1 March 2012. Available at: