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Your say on Tory proposals on forced marriages

Posted By Sunny On 13th August, 2007 @ 10:33 am In Culture, Sex equality | Comments Disabled

The Conservatives unveiled new proposals today to crack down on forced marriages. This is what they sent me.

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The proposals include a requirement for spouses to register, before going abroad, the name of their potential husband or wife.

Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, will now consult on the details of the proposals which are as follows:

  • That there should a prerequisite declaration of intention to marry abroad.
  • That there should be a time requirement before those who have been previously married to a spouse from overseas are allowed to bring in another spouse from overseas.
  • That potential spouses coming to the UK should take the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test.

Commenting, Shadow Immigration Minister, Damian Green, said: “The continuing existence of forced marriages in modern Britain is a stain on our social fabric. It is the extreme and unacceptable end of the clash of values between a plural democracy which values individual human rights and belief systems that regard women as second class citizens. Shockingly, forced marriages are not isolated events.”

“The Government’s Forced Marriage Unit does some good work but more effective action is needed. The Conservative Party has a number of proposals which we are putting out to consultation this week to minimise the incidence of forced marriage.”

“Out aim is that all those who come here to live will participate fully in British society, and that British society will be confident enough to allow diversity (as it always has) without losing its central values. One of those values is individual freedom over the key decisions in our lives. Choosing who to marry is one of those decisions, so there is no place in Britain for forced marriage.”

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Details of the policies the Conservatives are consulting on are below:

1. That there should a prerequisite declaration of intention to marry abroad.

Background:

  • This would require the UK sponsor to register in the UK their intention to marry, and details of their fiancé.
  • The UK sponsor would have to make this notification themselves (it could not be registered by a third party or family member).
  • This ‘intention to marry notification’ would have a time limit of 3 or 6 months. If the overseas fiancé or spouse did not apply for a spousal visa within that time frame, they would not be recognised as a spouse for immigration purposes.

Why?
This would prevent forced marriages, where young girls are taken abroad under false pretences and married. It would also help to prevent fraudulent marriages.

2. That there should be a time requirement before those who have been previously married to a spouse from overseas are allowed to bring in another spouse from overseas. If a marriage breaks down within five years of the wedding date, or of the date when the couple arrive in the UK- whichever is later- then neither party should be allowed to bring to the UK another spouse from overseas for a reasonable period of time (five or ten years).

Background:

  • The immigration rules require a two year probationary period, after which, if the marriage still exists, the foreign national spouse then apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
  • If a marriage breaks down after the spouse is granted ILR, they are of course entitled to remain in the UK. If the marriage breaks down before the two year period, unless there are grounds for divorce due to domestic violence, the spouse is not entitled to remain here.

Why?

  • This two year probationary period is being exploited by some men who come here on a spousal visa. After being granted ILR, they leave their British spouse. They then act as the UK sponsor in order to bring over a new wife.
  • There is also strong anecdotal evidence that men are bringing over wives from the Indian sub-continent, and then leaving them within a few years. They then bring over another spouse from the sub-continent. This would help to prevent fraudulent marriages, and mistreatment of young wives.

3. That potential spouses coming to the UK should take the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test.

Background:

  • This, along with ESOL Entry Level 3, is the requirement for ILR and British citizenship.
  • Other countries, including Holland, require a spouse to have prior knowledge of the customs and institutions of the country.

Why?
To ensure that the spouse’s integration into British society will be as easy as possible upon their arrival.

This follows previous Conservative announcements under David Cameron as follows:

  • Having an explicit annual limit on the number of economic migrants who come to the UK to settle from outside the EU.
  • Establishing A dedicated UK border police to secure our border and tackle immigration crime, human trafficking and illegal overstayers.
  • Conservative intention to sign up to the European Convention on trafficking in Human Beings along with other measures to combat human traffickers and to help the victims of human trafficking.
  • For marriage from abroad the age limit for both spouse and sponsor should be raised to 21 years of age and that the spouse must have a basic knowledge of English before they come to the UK to ESOL level 3

Submissions to the consultation are welcomed to:

Damian Green MP
Shadow Minister for Immigration
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

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So, what do you think? Since the Tories read this blog, your comments are welcome. Although I suggest the more serious ones be written in. I’ll be writing in with my views too.

Update
The Home Affairs Committee today announced an inquiry entitled Domestic Violence. They says: “In addition to the wider picture on domestic violence, the inquiry will encompass the specific issues of forced marriages and so-called ‘honour killings’.”

You can read about [1] that enquiry from here. They are also looking for people’s views.


Comments Disabled To "Your say on Tory proposals on forced marriages"

#1 Pingback By Free Political Forum » Your say on Tory proposals on forced marriages On 13th August, 2007 @ 10:54 am

[…] Original post by Sunny […]

#2 Comment By Rumbold On 13th August, 2007 @ 11:00 am

Glad to see that the Conservatives are drawing up some concrete proposals.

“1. That there should a prerequisite declaration of intention to marry abroad.”

Arguably the best of the three proposals, as it would give young ladies a chance to react. However, the family could still force the young lady to make this declaration.

“2. That there should be a time requirement before those who have been previously married to a spouse from overseas are allowed to bring in another spouse from overseas. If a marriage breaks down within five years of the wedding date, or of the date when the couple arrive in the UK- whichever is later- then neither party should be allowed to bring to the UK another spouse from overseas for a reasonable period of time (five or ten years).”

This seemed to me to be somewhat counterproductive for those women forced into marriage, as it would ensure that the spouse they were forced to accept would stay with them for longer, when previously divorce offered a way out of an abusive relationship (something very difficult to prove in court).

“3. That potential spouses coming to the UK should take the ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test.”

A bit pointless really. It is unclear how a test would help reduce the chance of an abusive marriage. The spouse might understand a bit more about the UK, but he is unlikely to stop beating his wife.

I would prefer to see attention focused on funding women’s groups, as the law can only do so much.

#3 Comment By Kismet Hardy On 13th August, 2007 @ 11:06 am

Ask the girl what she wants

#4 Comment By Galloise Blonde On 13th August, 2007 @ 11:22 am

I agree with Rumbold. Point three would make better sense not if it was tied to ‘Life in the UK’, but to a knowledge of legal rights and entitlements and practical steps they could take (for those who have been forced to marry a UK citizen). Point two is purely an immigration-limiter and it is specious to try and include it under a forced marriage heading.

#5 Comment By Leon On 13th August, 2007 @ 11:22 am

BBC news report about this yesterday: [2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6942745.stm

Couldn’t agree more with the following from Damian Green:

“It’s also a cohesion issue, because we have a big debate in this country about Britishness and what it involves, and often it’s a fairly airy-fairy debate, to be perfectly honest.

“I think one of the ways you can make practical Britishness is to say there are some things which are just not acceptable in modern Britain, and forced marriage would certainly be one of those.”

“Even if there are parts of cultural traditions that suggest young women don’t have the right to decide who they marry or not, well that’s not acceptable in modern Britain.”

Bang on the money with that one. It’s almost like he’s been reading Pickled Politics!

#6 Comment By fridgemagnet On 13th August, 2007 @ 11:59 am

What an utter load of rubbish - anti-immigration policies dressed up as concern about forced marriages, making them even worse.

#1 is irrelevant if women are taken to some other country, get married there and then _stay_ there. If there’s an intent for them both to come back, I hardly see that anyone sufficiently pressured to go and get married to someone they don’t want to isn’t also going to be pressured to sign a form.

What it _does_ do however is make it pain in the arse for anyone who legitimately does want to get married to someone in another country, which is quite a few people.

There doesn’t seem to be enough in #2 and #3 even pretending to have relevance to forced marriage to talk about to be honest.

These proposals are just about making it more difficult for people to marry abroad - more awkward legally, restrictions placed on their activities afterwards. Tacking them onto “forced marriage” is insulting. It’s like calling an increase in fuel tax a measure against armed robbery - well, it might make people think twice about using getaway cars….

#7 Comment By Galloise Blonde On 13th August, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

One is useful, though, for those who don’t realise that they are being taken abroad for marriage, because a lot are told they are just attending a family function. Making a declaration in advance is hardly a massive pain in the arse.

#8 Comment By fridgemagnet On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

Hm, yes, in an instance where somebody is kept completely in the dark it could help - IF the intention was to return to the UK afterwards and for the spouse to apply for citizenship. (It’s still really about immigration rather than forced marriage.)

I bet it would be a pain in the arse, if you have to arrange interviews, though it’s hard to say with no concrete proposals. Not that any of this will see the legal light of day at all of course.

I started wondering whether it would be legal at all if there are international treaties regarding recognition of marriage status, but I really don’t know the law on that.

#9 Comment By Galloise Blonde On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

In France you can’t get married unless you have a blood test, so I’m guessing it is OK to put certain pre-nuptial conditions in place before marraige.

For the pain-in-the-arse factor I would hope that there would be only one interview (why would there be more than one?), although whether this would be at the registry office or county court or somewhere else would be good to know (but as you say, it’s unlikely to see the light of day etc.)

It also has some purpose besides making sure that the youngsters in question are aware of the purpose of their trip… it’s a private opportunity where officials can pass on information on legal rights and recourses, and offer practical help, if this is requested by an individual who has been pressurised. Of course, there would need to be training to the officers doing this and as you say, light of day etc etc.

#10 Comment By The Common Humanist On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

At the risk of being fried……..whats wrong with tightening up immigration policies? (Am influenced here by, as a Labour Activist, the sheer amount of ‘We’re full’ comments I hear on door steps. The high level of resentment building up regarding this issue cannot be ignored)

At least we now have a Tory Party that is actually attempting to engage with a Britain of 2007 rather then 1807 as has been the case till Light Weight Davey took over.

I mean, they are struggling, but at least they are trying.

#11 Comment By Rumbold On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:56 pm

What was wrong with 1807? Trafalgar had recently happened and Britain was on her way to being the most powerful country in the world.

#12 Comment By Leon On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

Playing devils advocate…

whats wrong with tightening up immigration policies?

What’s right with tightening up immigration policies?

#13 Comment By Sofia On 13th August, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

let me get this right…you can’t marry until you’ve registered interest? or you have to register interest, get married and then the spouse has to apply for visa..??
what countries would this apply to? all countries?? what if someone is working abroad? How does this work..?? Would they register interest at a consulate or embassy?

#14 Comment By The Common Humanist On 13th August, 2007 @ 2:28 pm

“What’s right with tightening up immigration policies?”

Whats right? Preventing an anti immigrant backlash and the further shift of the electorate to the right -which will ultimately disadvantage persons from ethnic minorities anyway.

#15 Comment By Leon On 13th August, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

So immigration is to blame for the rise of the far right not failed housing policy?

#16 Comment By Ms_Xtreme On 13th August, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

Wait, wait, WAIT! My whole issue with forced marriages is that they’re seen to be something demonic when it’s not really like that. When people have arranged marriages, usually they’re manipulated into saying “yes” to it. It’s not how the west thinks - that the girl is dragged by the hair and sat down behind a curtain to say yes to the Imam, or dragged to sit next to the hubby and have to make the “pairay” in a half asleep, half awake stupor.

If parents are going to emotionally blackmail their kids to going home and marrying someone of their choice, it’ll still happen, regardless of all these rules.

I see these rules more as controlling who and how many people come into this country than anything.

I like the second rule tho. The one about if the spouse (male or female) leaves their british spouse within two years of being year, should be sent back. I’ll advocate for that only because I know how much that sort of stuff happens around here.

#17 Comment By leon On 13th August, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

If parents are going to emotionally blackmail their kids to going home and marrying someone of their choice, it’ll still happen, regardless of all these rules.

Well quite, I wrote about this last summer, basically stopping this and ‘honour’ killings is obviously important but the whole culture of who your children are allowed to be with should be looked at.

I don’t see why we can’t have a twin strategy of dealing with both tbh (seeing as they are intertwined to a degree it makes sense).

#18 Comment By dollymixedup On 13th August, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

I think the common humanist has raised a valid point, I live and work (the local laundrette and believe me I know lots of stuff that goes on) in what was a white working class/ poor area 30 years ago.

The area is now close to ghetto-ising, with around 80% BME population, people who have lived in the area for generations cannot get housed in the area as social landlords (and perhaps rightly so) place BME familys in areas near to “cultural” conveniences (market, established population, religous facilities)

I don’t know what the answer is, but our community has changed and some of those changes are negative. Racial tensions are higher than I’ve seen them in 13 years and that worries me - and I’m not right wing.

#19 Comment By Galloise Blonde On 13th August, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

You can’t mandate that parents show unconditional love and support for their children: you can’t legislate for emotional blackmail and social pressure. It’s my view that FM can only be attacked on two fronts: firstly by strong actions against explicitly criminal acts (such as child abuse, rape, violence and threats, the ‘demonic’ face that we unfortunately see too much of), and secondly by constant education.

Potential victims of this need to be aware of their rights and what they can do to assert those rights at every possible opportunity. Whether their choice is well-considered or made under duress, British authorities should do their best to do what coercive parents fail to do: providing chances for the individual to make an informed choice in the knowledge that their choice will be supported, whatever it is. The more chances there are to reach out and put out this message the better. If the first option provides this, and if (big if) the support networks are well funded enough to respond, then it’s good.

I was going to write more, but now I’ve seen the update and I’m off to compose my thoughts to respond to the call. Thanks for the notification!

#20 Comment By Sofia On 14th August, 2007 @ 9:58 am

i agree with GB…continuous education and working with local orgs/community centres/faith centres etc…its a lot harder and a lot more longterm..but would probably work better

#21 Comment By Leon On 14th August, 2007 @ 10:08 am

Yep, well said GB, agree also.

#22 Comment By Jagdeep On 14th August, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

Good ideas.

#23 Comment By sonia On 15th August, 2007 @ 2:59 pm

question is how is it going to affect the rights of other people. say - any british person who goes travelling abroad, has a whirlwind romance with some foreign national they met in ibiza, and 8 months later, wants to come back to the UK with lover - now spouse - say - or about to be spouse - in tow. technically speaking, they would be affected by these forced marriage proposals wouldn’t they?

and the 3-6 month time limit, if someone declares their intention to bring aforementioned lover over, then the lover for some reason - say their mum is ill, and can’t make it in the 3-6 month period, but 9 months later, is prepared to move over, but oops, they can’t, because - again, the proposals mean they won’t now be recognised as a spouse.

there has to be room to recognise there will be such situations - desis having arranged marriages abroad aren’t the only brits marrying foreigners they might have met somewhere else -given the rate young brits travel, and increasing rate of mixed couples.

food for thought :-)

#24 Comment By sonia On 15th August, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

i mean how do we resolve the areas where these policies clash with the rights of people to marry who they want, and have them live with them in their own country.

- which - in the context of immigration policies - is usually a no-go area - for countries that want to claim they are providing human rights to their citizens - since in the case of marriage, these policies affect the human rights of the spouse who is British - so then it becomes not something which is simply about immigration policy, but about rights aof British citizens.

#25 Comment By sonia On 15th August, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

i will have to look through the Tory policies in detail - it will be revealing to see if they have considered this aspect - and if so - how they expect to be able to resolve it in the light of the civil liberties and human rights debate.

#26 Comment By sonia On 15th August, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

“i mean how do we resolve the areas where these policies clash with the rights of people to marry who they want, and have them live with them in their own country.”

i should have said:

“i mean how do we resolve the areas where these policies clash with the rights of people to marry who they want,( and not someone their parents have forced) and have them live with them in their own country.”

so my question is: how will these policies help the immigration officials to distinguish between the marriages with foreigners that are ‘forced’- and those that are ‘real’ love marriages with foreigners that aren’t ‘forced’.

is it going to be applied to everyone - or people in situations which are “suspect”?


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URLs in this post:
[1] that enquiry from here: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/home_affairs_committee/hacpn070726no38.cfm
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6942745.stm: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6942745.stm