UK court upholds English-speaking rule for immigrants

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A High Court judge on Friday dismissed a legal challenge to a new immigration rule that requires people to be able to speak English before moving to Britain to live with their partner or spouse.

Judge Jack Beatson said the language test, introduced in November last year as part of the coalition government's efforts to slash immigration, did not interfere with the human rights of three couples who brought the challenge.

Immigration minister Damian Green said he was "very pleased" at the ruling, which was handed down at the High Court sitting in Birmingham, central England.

"We believe it is entirely reasonable that someone intending to live in the UK should understand English, so that they can integrate and participate fully in our society. We are very pleased that the courts agree with us," he said.

The challenge was led by Briton Rashida Chapti, 54, and her Indian husband Vali Chapti, 57, who have been married for 37 years and have six children but currently live apart.

He does not speak English, meaning that he is now barred from moving to Britain to be with his wife.

Their lawyers argued that the immigration rule contravened their rights to a family life and to marry as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, but the judge rejected these arguments.

He also denied the measure was discriminatory because it did not apply to migrants from some English-speaking countries.

"The new rule impacts on the Article 8 rights of the claimants, (the right to a family life) but its aims, to promote integration and to protect public services, are legitimate aims," the judgment said.

"Taking into account all the material before the court, including the exceptions to the new rule, it is not a disproportionate interference with family life and is justified."

Prime Minister David Cameron promised when he took office in May 2010 to reduce net immigration to Britain from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands by the next election in 2015.

© 2011 AFP

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