This case dates back to 1985, before the Human Rights Act 1998 was in force in the UK. Mrs Abdulaziz, Mrs Cabales and Mrs Balkandali believed they were being denied the right to a family life and were being discriminated against, because of the UK’s immigration rules, which were in force at that time. Because the Human Rights Act 1998 was not in force, they had to take their case to Europe to get a remedy for the breaches of Article 8 and Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The facts were that their husbands, all resident abroad, were not allowed to live in the UK because the immigration rules applied stricter conditions for husbands to join their wives than for wives to join their husbands. The Government claimed this measure had been put in place in order to protect the domestic labour market and maintain “public tranquility”.
The three women argued, amongst other things, that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights included the right to establish one’s family life in the country where one was legally living, and that being forced to either move abroad or to be separated from one’s spouse was inconsistent with this right. They claimed the immigration rules in force ignored the modern role of women and the fact that men may be self-employed and create rather than seek jobs. The Government argued that they needed to protect the domestic labour market at a time of high unemployment, and to advance public tranquility through effective immigration control which benefited settled immigrants as well as the indigenous population.
The wives won their case and the UK changed the immigration rules so that they did not discriminate against female immigrants in this way.