UK court allows appeal on Ankara deal
The U.K. Court of Appeal – the highest court within the Senior Courts of England and Wales – has granted the Alliance of Turkish Businesspeople (AOTB) permission to appeal a High Court judgment on immigration rules that have made it harder for thousands of Turks to stay in the country.
“The Court of Appeal has just granted us permission to appeal the High Court’s judgment. We will have our case heard at the Court of Appeal at a date that’s not yet announced,” the AOTB, consisting of a group of Turkish entrepreneurs, said on its Twitter profile on Sept. 17.
Up until March 2018, a Turkish national could settle in the United Kingdom to set up a business if they could prove they had sufficient funds to do so as per the Ankara Agreement signed with the European Union in 1963.
Also known as the Turkish European Communities Association Agreement (ECAA), it was set up to boost trade and economic relations between the two parties and pave the way for Ankara’s accession to the bloc.
After a year, Turkish citizens self-employed in the U.K. could apply for further leave to remain — usually for three years — and then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for free.
The agreement also allowed them to bring dependents to the U.K., including spouses, civil partners and children under the age of 21.
But a British court noted in 2017 that the country’s settlement rules had over the past few decades “become increasingly strict and enacting” and that “the accession of Turkey to the European Economic Community [now the EU] has not materialized within the timescale originally envisaged or at all.”
It ruled that “it would be incongruous if the Ankara Agreement and its Additional Protocol were to confer on Turkish nationals and their family members rights superior to those available to EU nationals and their family members.”
Following the ruling, the Home Office stopped accepting applications for ILR under the ECAA — catching thousands of Turkish business owners established in the U.K. off guard. It then extended the minimum residency requirement by one year to five years — in line with the policy for EU nationals.
The changes introduced also include a language and culture test known as “Life in the U.K.” and an IRL application fee of 2,389 British pounds per person.
To challenge the policy change in the courts, those affected founded the AOTB.
They kicked off their legal battle against the Home Office in March 2019, arguing that the changes had brought real hardship on them and their dependents and that they amounted to an abuse of power.
The Home Office defended itself by saying that the changes were limited and proportionate.
The High Court ruled in the authorities’ favor in June 2019 and dismissed the judicial review claim. The AOTB then filed for a right to appeal.
İpek Leni Candan, founder of the AOTB, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that the Court of Appeal’s approval of right to appeal “has strengthened our belief that the practice is unjust and illegal.” “Our struggle will continue until we get our rights, which have been usurped, back,” she said.