Marriage visa age raised to 21 in bid to tackled forced weddings
The minimum age at which foreigners can come to Britain to get married is being increased in a new bid to tackle forced marriages.
By Martin Beckford
Social Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:52PM GMT 04 Nov 2008
From the end of this month, both the intended bride and groom will have to be 21 up from 18 before a marriage visa can be granted.
The move comes as part of Government efforts to stop teenagers being brought to the UK against their wills and made to marry.
Most forced marriages in this country involve young girls from Pakistan and Bangladesh, most of whom are poorly educated and speak little English, which many fear condemns them to living in poverty and leads to segregated communities.
Phil Woolas, the new immigration minister who sparked controversy last month for his tough comments on limiting the numbers of people moving to Britain, said: “It is important that we protect vulnerable young people and this measure will help avoid exploitation.
“We believe it is important to protect young people from being forced into relationships they do not want at a time in their lives when they could be establishing a degree of independence as an adult through further education or work.”
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “The increase in age limits for marriage visas is a welcome defence against abuses such as forced marriage.
“But we must also give more help to legitimate spouses to learn English so they can play a full part in society.”
The new rules will come into effect on November 27, just days after the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act which will allow anyone to demand a injunction against a wedding ceremony going ahead, if they believe it is going ahead under duress, or an intended bride or groom being taken overseas.
Earlier this year the Labour MP Ann Cryer, who has been at the forefront of campaigns to tackle forced marriage, claimed many MPs are too scared to talk about the issue in case they lose valuable Muslim votes.
MP Ann is assured on immigration
Telegraph And Argus
8:20am Tuesday 4th November 2008
Keighley MP Ann Cryer has been assured by the Minister for Immigration, Phil Woolas, that offices abroad are prepared for changes to immigration rules.
From December, the age limit at which someone can sponsor, or be sponsored, as a spouse from abroad will rise from 18 to 21.
Mrs Cryer said she was concerned about the readiness of Border Agency offices to implement the new rules, for which she has campaigned for some time.
She said: I am pleased the minister could reassure me the Border Agency is ready to implement the new rules.
Increasing the age at which people can invite or be invited to join a spouse will provide an opportunity for individuals to develop maturity and life skills which may allow them to resist the pressure of being forced into marriage. It will also provide an opportunity for young people to complete education and training.