Minister’s marriage visa pledge

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

A potential solution has emerged to the marriage visa crisis which has caused widespread consternation among Charedis.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas told a delegation from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations that he would explore the possibility of pre-certification.

This would mean that under-21s from outside the European Union who wish to marry in the UK would be examined by an embassy or consulate in their country of origin in order to certify that there was no suggestion of coercion.

The delegation — Adath vice-president and former Hackney Mayor Joe Lobenstein, Chanoch Kesselman and Councillor Brian Gordon together with Hackney MPs Dianne Abbott and Meg Hillier — spent an hour with Mr Woolas discussing the difficulties posed by the government’s new law which has raised the marriage visa age from 18 to 21.

Also present was the Hendon MP, Andrew Dismore, who set up the
meeting. Campaigners had warned that the legislation, enacted on November 25, would have a severe effect on many marriages in the Charedi community involving young people from Israel, America and Canada. The law does not affect EU countries.

The primary purpose of the new law was to try to stamp out the practice of forced marriages, some of which have ended in death and serious injury. The arranged marriages of the Charedi community have become an unwitting victim of the new law.

Last updated: 3:05pm, December 18 2008