A call for tightening the rules on marriages to foreign partners has come from think-tank Migrationwatch (See Briefing Paper No. 10.25).
It comes in the wake of a Home Affairs Committee report which reported on forced marriages among some sections of the ethnic communities; the changes are needed to ensure that young people are not put under pressure to marry.
The numbers given leave to enter the UK are significant with over 31,000 arriving in 2009.
‘Of course British citizens should be able to marry who ever they choose – provided that they make a free choice without pressure being placed on them. The issue runs wider than forced marriages which the Committee specifically commented upon,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch chairman.
‘It is now time to move on from marriages arranged purely for immigration purposes, often under a degree of family or social pressure that falls short of being actually “forced”.
‘Such marriages cause a lot of misery to those directly involved and are harmful, to the cohesion of our society, as many in the Asian community would privately agree,’ he said.
Sir Andrew said a range of measures was needed. The most important was the reinstatement of interviews for marriage visa applicants, particularly in countries with a low average age of applicants. They have been quietly abandoned in recent years as a cost saving measure but this means that it is, in practice, almost impossible to enforce even the existing controls.
The report also calls for the sponsor to be required to have a minimum level of earnings. In addition, there should be a delay of five years, and a check that the marriage is still subsisting, before permanent settlement is granted.
The level of English language required should be raised to ensure that the spouse has the language skills necessary to integrate into wider society and make a positive contribution to the economy.
‘It is clear that there is a huge task to be done in tackling the chaos in the immigration system left by the last government. Our proposals are just one step in that process. They are intended to be fair to those who seek to marry a foreign partner while also commanding the confidence of the majority of the population – something which at present is sadly lacking,’ said Sir Andrew.