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July 24, 2009 permalink
A young Canadian woman, Rochelle Wallis, is being forcibly separated from her husband under a British law intended to halt forced marriages. In previous shotgun divorce cases, social workers operated furtively in private to avoid public scrutiny. Now they are getting arrogant enough to do it when the cameras are operating. The goons refer to their intervention as "help and support".
Forced marriage laws keep young couple apart - even though they love each other
A young wife faces being separated from her husband for two years under immigration laws brought in to protect Asian women from forced marriages.
Published: 7:00AM BST 24 Jul 2009
Rochelle Wallis, 19, who is Canadian, is due to be deported and banned from re-entering Britain until she is 21, because she married boyfriend Adam shortly after her visa expired.
The couple met in Canada more than two years ago and remained in close contact over the internet before she decided to visit him at his home in Aberystwyth, west Wales, in March of last year.
They decided to tie the knot and applied for permission from the Home Office a month before her visa ran out.
Arrangements for the wedding were delayed after authorities lost their passport photos. Permission was finally granted a week before the visa ran out but the couple were unable to arrange the nuptials at such short notice.
By the time they married a few weeks later and sent forms applying for Mrs Wallis to remain in the country, she had technically overstayed her visa.
The 19-year-old now faces the likelihood of being deported and prohibited from re-entering the UK until she turns 21 under immigration laws designed to protect young British Asian women from being subjected to forced marriages.
The Forced Marriages Act has increased the minimum age for spousal visas to 21 to reduce the chance of forced marriages.
The 18-month separation set to be imposed on Mr and Mrs Wallis was described as an "inconvenience" in a letter from the UK Border Agency to the couple's local MP Mark Williams.
In response, Mrs Wallis told BBC's Newsnight programme: "It's more than an inconvenience, he's ripping my marriage apart – he's taking the only thing I have and throwing it away."
The couple would be allowed to live as man and wife and find employment in any other European Union country.
Mr Wallis told the programme: "It's insane. We can go anywhere except my home country, where we got married, and where they gave us permission to get married."
A spokesman for the Home Office said: "Rochelle Roberts was refused permission to remain as a spouse because she came as a visitor and remained here illegally after her visa expired.
"The immigration rules are clear that those people who arrive as visitors and those that remain here illegally cannot remain in the United Kingdom as a spouse.
"Rochelle Roberts's age was not the reason her application was refused.
"As a measure to protect young people from being pressurised into sponsoring a spouse from overseas, we have raised the age for sponsorship for a marriage visa from 18 to 21.
"We considered carefully whether an increase in age from 18 to 21 would be proportionate in light of concerns that raising the age might discriminate against specific religious communities and could penalise genuine couples.
"Overall we believe there are various benefits outweighing the drawbacks."
He added: "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. That is why 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."
Source: Daily Telegraph
Addendum: On September 9 the marriage was broken up when the wife left Britain for Canada.
Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 16:51 UK
'It's ripping apart my marriage'
Rochelle Wallis from Canada has left the UK after being refused a spousal visa, despite being given leave to marry her husband Adam in November 2008.
The couple are the first to fall foul of unintended consequences of new anti-forced marriage legislation because Rochelle is under 21 - the age couple's can apply for a marriage visa.
Speaking to Newsnight's Justin Rowlatt at Heathrow Airport prior to her departure, Mrs Wallis gave her reaction to the letter she received from Home Secretary Alan Johnson about her case.