Stephanie Harrison QC, as reported by Channel 4, has stated that David Cameron’s suggestion that women could be deported if their English isn’t good enough is ‘nonsense’ and would constitute a breach of human rights law.
David Cameron has announced a £20m fund for English lessons for “isolated” women, stating that 190,000 Muslim women have no or minimal English. Additionally, he has announced the introduction of a new language test for all non-EU immigrants who come to the UK to join their spouse.
In conversation with Channel 4’s FactCheck, Stephanie Harrison QC of Garden Court Chambers has clarified whether failing a language test could feasibly become a basis for removal from the UK. She argued that a move to make English proficiency a mandatory requirement would constitute a breach of the right to private and family life, protected by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. Responding to the Prime Minister’s suggestion that even women whose children had been born in Britain could potentially face deportation if their language skills were insufficient, Stephanie said the following:
“The government would also have to demonstrate that they had had regard to the best interests of the child under section 55 of the Borders and Citizens Act 2009 and I could envisage no basis upon which a court would conclude that it was in the best interest of a child to remove their mother because she had not reached a certain proficiency in the English language … Removal or even the threat of removal of a parent would be damaging to the rights and welfare of a child and disproportionate.”
“There is no relationship of proportionality between a person’s ability to have a certain level of English and their family or private life in the United Kingdom. It is a nonsense.”
A full copy of the FactCheck article is available on the Channel 4 website.
Stephanie Harrison QC is a member of the number-one ranked Garden Court Chambers’ Immigration and Asylum Team. She is renowned for her expertise in public law, immigration detention and civil liberties.