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Let’s start at the beginning…what is Article 8?

If you have had even a brief scan of our website, you will have probably worked out by now that Immigration Together was established with one goal in mind: to help families with immigration problems stay together. A lovely sentiment, but how do we do that? 

Put simply, we help families to enforce their rights. What rights?

We start by looking at various pieces of international and domestic law to identify what right you and your family members have to be together. More often than not, that will involve turning to the European Convention on Human Rights (we can just call it the ECHR for short). The ECHR is an international convention that protects human rights and political freedoms in Europe. It’s that piece of law that gets a bad rap with some sections of the media whenever ‘a foreign national criminal’ (that’s the legal term) is allowed by the Courts to remain in the UK. More often than not, however, the ECHR (which was brought into UK law by the Human Rights Act, but we don’t need to trouble ourselves too much with that) is one of the most crucial legal tools a citizen has to ensure that the State is prevented from riding roughshod over their freedoms and abusing its power.  

The ECHR says a lot of things. Think right to life, right to freedom from torture, right to liberty and you are on the right track. For our purposes, it is Article 8 of the ECHR that is most relevant. Article 8 states that everyone has the right to respect for his private or family life, his home and his correspondence. It’s such an important piece of law that immigration lawyers in courts up and down the country utter the phrase ‘Article 8’ hundreds of time every day which, when you think about it, means that Article 8 of the ECHR is used a lot in support of people’s right to remain in the UK because of their private or family life. 

What is your right private and family life? Your right to private life includes your right to establish and develop relationships with other human beings and the outside world. So, here we are looking at, for example, your relationships with your friends, your adult relatives, your career, your study and the community in which you live. Your right to family life is a little harder to define because families come in all shapes and sizes. Clear examples of family life will be spouses in a subsisting marriage or civil partnership, parents living with their children under 18 and minor siblings living together. Beyond that, it will generally depend on the strength of the emotional ties and the extent of dependency that exist between family members. 

Article 8 is a qualified right. What that means is that the State can interfere with your and your family members’ right to private and family life (e.g. through removal from the UK) if it is lawful and necessary in a democratic society (such as maintaining an effective immigration system), provided that the State’s interference is proportionate. And here we get to the rub: proportionality. This concept is what most immigration family life cases turn on. It involves balancing ‘the public interest’ in removing someone from the UK against the consequences of the interference that person’s removal his or her private and family life. It is when emotive and difficult questions like ‘Are there obstacles to a couple, one of whom is a British citizen, leaving the UK to continue their family life in another country?’ or ‘Is it unreasonable to expect a British child to leave the UK to follow his non-British parent who is being removed?’ arise. And most importantly, it is when immigration lawyers, defending the rights of these family members, have to come to the fore and demonstrate why the State’s interference with the individual’s private and family life is disproportionate; why a family should not be forced to make these impossible choices.

Not every case will succeed. The law in this area is complex and Parliament and the government has placed great weight on the public interest in removing those who do not have leave to remain in the UK (far greater weight than is reported when immigration cases are covered in the media). But what is clear is that if you or your family members are facing immigration problems, knowing your rights and developing a positive case to protect and advance those rights is the best way of ensuring that are able to stay together in the UK. 

Because together, we are stronger.
Click here to see if a barrister at Immigration Together can help you and your family.

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