Recent reports have exposed claims that the Home Office is turning a blind eye to forced marriages and issuing spouses with visas, even where victims, third parties or caseworkers have raised concerns.
Forced marriages are defined by the Home Office as a marriage “where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised or abuse is used to force them to do so. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights”.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that last year the Home Office received 175 enquiries from victims trying to block their spouses’ visa applications. Some 88 of these enquiries became full cases, where suspicions from case workers or third parties were made to the UK authorities. In some cases, the victims themselves came forward. Out of these 88 cases, 42 visas were still granted, with a further 10 still under consideration or under appeal.
The Home Office gave the following statement in response to the scandal: “We take our safeguarding responsibilities very seriously. If an individual refuses to act as the sponsor for a visa application then under the immigration rules, that visa should not be issued”.
The Home Office also stated that it “categorically denies” that culture or religion affects the outcome of cases. This followed allegations by a number of charities and NGOs that the Home Office are “turning a blind eye” because of cultural or religious sensitivities.
Despite forced marriage being outlawed in England and Wales in 2014, there have only been two convictions. This is despite 3,546 reports of forced marriage between 2014 and 2016, according to a Freedom of Information request obtained by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has stated that he will do more to fight forced marriages in the UK, stating that it has no place in British society. Mr Javid has insisted that the Home Office “will be doing more to combat it and support victims. Those who force British women into marriage, be warned that we are redoubling our efforts to make sure you pay for your crimes”.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.