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UK Supreme Court rejects challenge to English competence test for foreign spouses

[JURIST] The UK Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday rejected [judgment, PDF] a challenge to an immigration rule requiring foreign spouses of UK citizens to speak English before relocating to the UK. The provision [Home Office backgrounder], announced in June 2010, requires an immigrant to be able to speak English before joining his or her spouse in the UK. The case was brought by two British citizens, Saiqa Bibi and Saffana Ali, whose husbands are immigrants from Yemen and Pakistan. The women argued that the requirement would force their husbands to have to learn computer skills and travel long distances to learn English. The court was urged to hold that the rule was "unreasonable, disproportionate and discriminatory." However, the court said that the "direct discrimination, even on grounds of nationality, is capable of justification under article 14 [of the European Convention on Human Rights]." The court also said that it was not proven that it was "unreasonable" to expect that immigrants learn "rudimentary English."

Various countries in the EU have had issues with controversial immigration laws over the past decade. In 2011 an Indian couple challenged [JURIST report] the UK immigration law that contained an English language speaking requirement, and a court later ruled that the requirement violated human rights. In 2009 Italy's Senate passed [JURIST report] a controversial law making illegal immigration a crime, punishable by a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 euros. The law also increased the time law enforcement could hold suspected illegal immigrants from two months to six months. In 2007 French parliament passed [JURIST report] a strict immigration bill that requires language and cultural knowledge tests, as well as optional DNA testing, for immigrants who want to join their families in France.

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