Joined: 31 March 2005
Shazia Qayum, who was a victim of a forced marriage
Teenage foreign brides and bridegrooms are to be barred from entering Britain on marriage visas under measures announced yesterday to tackle forced weddings.
The minimum age at which British citizens can sponsor a foreigner to enter the country as a spouse is to rise from 18 to 21, as is the minimum age at which a bride or groom can themselves enter on a marriage visa. But proposals to force foreign spouses to learn English before they arrive have been watered down after running into opposition. Instead, spouses will be required to promise to take basic English lessons within six months of arriving in the UK or risk the revocation of their marriage visa allowing them to stay.
Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said the introduction of English tests before spouses moved to the UK remained the Government's medium-term goal. The Home Office claimed it would be impractical to demand that people sat tests before they arrived because English lessons are not widely enough available overseas, particularly in rural areas.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: ?Forced marriage leads to victims suffering years of physical and mental abuse and in extreme cases unlawful imprisonment and rape. It has no place in our society. The Government is determined to do everything it can to stamp it out and to ensure that victims receive the help and support they need. That is why we are raising the age limit for visas, checking anyone entering into a marriage does so of their own free will and demanding that those coming to the UK learn English.?
Yesterday's measures, many of which will be implemented by the end of the year, follow growing concern at the extent of forced marriages and at the abuse of the marriage visa route by people who would otherwise find it very difficult to qualify for entry.
A total of 47,000 people entered Britain in 2006 as a spouse or fianc?), more than double the number a decade earlier. The measures will hit hardest 17,000 spouses and fianc?)s from the sub-continent.
The forced marriage unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office deals with about 5,000 calls a year and an estimated 400 cases of forced marriage. But these figures are thought to underestimate the scale of the problem.
Yesterday's package is an attempt to tackle forced marriage as well as giving greater protection to youngsters who may be facing an arranged marriage following emotional pressure.
In addition to raising the age for sponsoring a marriage visa to 21, and barring teenage spouses from entering Britain until they are 21, Britons will have to register their plans to sponsor a marriage visa before they leave the country. This is intended to stop young people being taken abroad and coerced into marriage.
Young people in such circumstances will have to name their prospective partner before travelling abroad and possibly undergo a face-to-face interview with an immigration officer.
This will give a person who may be fearful of causing trouble with their family the opportunity to inform the authorities that they are being forced, bullied or have reservations about the marriage.
Figures show that 5,140 people under 21 entered the country as a spouse or fianc?) in 2005, including 35 aged 16 and 60 aged 17. Nearly a third of cases dealt with by the forced marriage unit involved people aged between 18 and 21.
In a move intended to stop the abuse of marriage visas, a spouse who enters Britain and then abandons their partner, or who is suspected of misusing the marriage visa to gain settlement in Britain, could be stripped of their right to remain.
The Home Office admitted that teenage spouses who will no longer be able to enter Britain with a marriage visa because of the higher age limit could try other routes, such as a visitor or student visa.
The timetable for introducing the English language requirement will be published in the autumn but the measure is likely to be in force by the end of the year, a Home Office spokeswoman said.
Results of a consultation on the plan to introduce language tests showed that 68 out of 101 who responded opposed such a move.
One organisation that responded to the consultation said access to English lessons was difficult in areas such as Sylhet in Bangladesh and Kashmir in Pakistan. Several commented that demanding the ability to speak English was discriminatory because migrants from the European Union are not required to know English in order to come to Britain.
Ministers are to consider requiring sponsors of marriage visas to provide much more information about the relationship on application forms.
A separate consultation paper on guidance to be issued to local authorities highlights one key motive behind forced marriage as being able to control behaviour - including sexuality generally and in particular the behaviour and sexuality of women.
Other motives include protecting ?family honour?, responding to family pressure, attempting to strengthen family links, ensuring that land, property and wealth remain in the family, protecting perceived cultural and religious ideals, stopping ?unsuitable? relationships and assisting claims for UK residence and citizenship.
But the guidance said: ?Forced marriage cannot be justified on religious grounds: every major faith condemns it and freely-given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages.?
Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: ?We would have a requirement that the spouse must have a basic knowledge of English before they come to the UK. It would be unfair and impractical to allow someone to come here on the promise that they will learn English, and then remove them if they can't.?
Joined: 07 February 2006
i think he will have to wait till he is 21...since he is 23, i think you can apply for a visa....=]
Joined: 31 March 2005
Joined: 01 September 2005
Joined: 31 March 2005
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