Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008
MP, MR MARK
Q560 Chairman: What are the figures?
How many rescues did we undertake in the last year?
Meg Munn: We have been trying
to get these down because the situation is that
Q561 Chairman: Who has them?
Meg Munn: If I could just explain?
The situation is that there are numbers that will be seen through
the Forced Marriage Unit in the UK and then there are additional
figures that are seen in other places. Mark or RobI do
not know who has actually got them here.
Q562 Mr Winnick: If we could just
take the Indian sub-continent, the figures for the last two years
on the Indian sub-continent where rescue operations have been
coordinated by the British authorities?
Mr Macaire: Last year we dealt
with 168 overseas cases of forced marriage. Not all of those were
actual rescues. I do not have the figures here but we can provide
them for you.
Q563 Mr Winnick: A total of 168.
Mr Macaire: A total of 168 overseas
cases last year.
Q564 Chairman: For the calendar year
last year there were 168?
Mr Macaire: Yes.
Q565 Mr Winnick: And mainly on the
Indian sub-continent out of those 168?
Mr Macaire: The majority, yes;
over 85% in the Indian sub-continent.
Q566 Mr Winnick: That is very useful
Meg Munn: I think it would be
helpful at this point if Mark Sedwill also explained that those
were the consular cases in relation to the visa applications.
Mr Sedwill: Chairman, thank you.
The consular cases of course involve British citizens, as Mr Winnick
was just asking about. In Pakistan, for example, last year we
had 450 cases which related to family abusenot all of those
of course are forced marriage necessarily, but they are cases
of which forced marriage is a proportion. 250 of those were reluctant
sponsors, which is generally the way that forced marriage issues
come to the notice of the immigration system; but we had 86 vulnerable
adults, for example, as well. Then in Bangladeshthe numbers
are much lessit was around 30 and in India it was around
a dozen, and that is partly because of the awareness campaigns
we have had in Pakistan with NGOs, people are more likely to bring
these cases to our attention.
Q567 Mr Winnick: On these rescue
operations the procedure is obviously that the British authorities
can only ask the local police outrightthe British authorities
can do no more than ask for the full cooperation of the police
in the given country; am I not right?
Meg Munn: Yes; and the situation
is that where these situations are arising relationships are being
built up with the agencies in those countries so that when there
is a need for this action to be taken there is a good understanding
of what is required and then that action goes ahead.
Q568 Mr Winnick: Would it be right
to say that the Indian, Bangladesh and Pakistan authorities, the
immigration and police authorities in particular, are helpful?
Meg Munn: Yes, I think that is
my understanding of that. I do not know if Rob can give a little
Mr Macaire: Yes. What would typically
happen is that our High Commission would go to the place where
the individual was about whom we were concerned; they would rely
on the support of the local police to go there and find the location,
but it would be probably the High Commission and consular staff
who would go in and talk to the individual concerned and talk
to the family as necessary. It does rely on the cooperation from
local authorities and we do get that.
Q569 Mr Winnick: Which you are getting?
Mr Macaire: Yes.
Q570 Mr Winnick: You were a little
Mr Macaire: No. I think they are
positive about it. It happens very much at the working level;
it is about getting policemen in a particular area to be helpful
and supportive on forced marriages.
Q571 Mr Winnick: In the main you
are satisfied with the level of cooperation, would that be right?
Mr Macaire: Yes.
Q572 Mr Winnick: Just finally, where
rescue operations have taken place, say in the last two years,
what has actually happened in practice? Has the UK citizen come
back to Britain?
Mr Macaire: By and large, yes.
Q573 Mr Winnick: Without being involved
in any marriage whatsoever?
Meg Munn: We do have some case
examples which we have looked out, if the Committee is interested,
which we can either talk to or we can send you subsequently, whichever
Q574 Martin Salter: To what extent
is forced marriage, in your view, Minister, used as a tool to
get entry clearance for people into the UK?
Meg Munn: That is certainly one
of the reasons but it is not by any means the only reason. There
are many other reasons why forced marriages take place, sometimes
to do with family, sometimes to do with community issues, so we
would not make an assumption that a situation that was brought
to our attention either in the UK or elsewhere was primarily for
that reason; it would need to be based on the evidence in that
Q575 Martin Salter: Many years ago
we got rid of the Primary Purpose Rule, which was much hated by
minority communities in this country and was seen as an excessively
harsh tool for keeping families apart. There was only argument
I ever heard at the time in favour of the Primary Purpose Rule,
and that was that it potentially provided a bit of a safety buffer
to prevent forced marriage. I never heard that argument then expanded
or justified but I do think it is worth just sticking that into
the public domain again in the context of this inquiry. Have you
had a chance, Minister, to reflect on whether the Primary Purpose
Rule did give any protection at all against forced marriage?
Meg Munn: I do not what the actual
figures were at that time because I have not researched back on
thatI think it was 1997 and one of the early things that
the new Labour Government did. I think we need to remember that
although forced marriage is clearly very serious and although
we are absolutely clear that what we are seeing is not the full
extent of itwith all these issues there will be a lot of
hidden cases that we are not seeingon the other hand forced
marriage is still only a tiny proportion of marriages that take
place. So I am not sure that it would be particularly helpful
to move back to that. What we do useand Mark will give
me the exact terminology for thisis as to whether the marriage
is a genuine marriage and the parties intend to live together
Q576 Chairman: We will be coming
on to the marriage and the spouse issue in a second. Do you want
to respond to the first of Mr Salter's points, Mr Sedwill?
Mr Sedwill: Of course the Primary
Purpose Rule was abolished before we really started to do forced
marriage casework in an organised way, so we do not have a real
example against which to test it. It could have been a pretty
blunt instrument, to be honest, in this case. As the Minister
says, there are quite strict requirements anyway for a spouse
or fiancé(e) settlement: the marriage has to be subsisting,
the partners have to have met, they have to be over 18 and so
on, and they have to be able to maintain and accommodate themselves.
So we have a range of tools within the immigration rules as they
stand, which are broadly equivalent to a test that essentially
requires us to establish whether the marriage was genuine. Primary
Purpose rather put the burden of proof the other way around and
that might have helped with some forced marriage cases, but of
course would have had much wider consequences as well.
Q577 Martin Salter: Just one follow-up
question, did I hear you correctly, Mr Sedwill, that you were
talking in terms of 450 cases of reluctant sponsors, is that right,
Mr Sedwill: 450 cases which we
handle essentially as family abuse cases; around 250 we define
as reluctant sponsors. There are other categories where it is
the other way aroundwe have reluctant applicants where
essentially the victim of the forced marriage is actually the
applicant rather the sponsor. And we have around I think 86 vulnerable
adults where we have people who are severely disabled who are
somehow involved in a marital case of this kind. So it is 450
in total, 250 reluctant sponsors in 2007.
Chairman: We will now move on to immigration
and specifically this point, but it would be very helpful, Mr
Sedwill, if the Committee could receive those figures over the
last five years as soon as possible as we intend to complete our
inquiry by the end of May.
Mr Clappison: Which figures are those,
Chairman: On forced marriages, that Mr
Sedwill has just referred to.
Q578 Bob Russell: Chairman, I would
like to continue the line of questioning started by Mr Winnick
and continued by Mr Salter. The Committee has been told that in
2006we do not have the figures for 2007that 47,100
people were admitted to the UK as a spouse or fiancé(e)
for the two year probationary period960 a weekand
almost 17,000 of those were from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh
collectively. When a British citizen applies for a marriage visa
for their non-British spouse why is the spouse interviewed but
not the sponsor? You have fielded that one, have you?
Mr Sedwill: I wondered if the
Minister wanted to start.
Q579 Chairman: It is an issue of
policy but there are practical implications. What is the policy
behind this, first of all?
Meg Munn: The policy would be
the sheer volume of the situation in terms of what the issues
are, but let us be clear that neither am I an immigration minister
either; but let me move on to get the detail of this.
Mr Sedwill: I simply wanted to
let the Minister start. Essentially the Immigration Rules are
configured around the applicant and that has been a principle
of the Immigration Rules for quite some time. We are changing
that a little now with the point based systeminstitutional
sponsors have more legal obligations on them as part of the current
visitor consultation, indeed the marriage to partners overseas
consultationand there is in a sense a philosophical shift
which might require the Immigration Rules to concentrate formally
on the sponsor, but the Immigration Rules are set up so that essentially
the legal contract is with the applicant rather than the sponsor.
In these cases we would not conduct a formal structured interview
with sponsorsapart from anything else that might, particularly
through the immigration process, alert the family to the fact
that the sponsor has tipped us off that there is something wrong
with the marriage. That contact with the sponsor would usually
happen in advance of the formal visa application and would be
handled through the Forced Marriage Unit or the consular side.
Then we conduct a very detailed interview with the applicant,
just as we would for other settlement cases.