By Joseph Willits
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Today Cameron pledged to bring about the end of forced marriages, describing them as "the most grotesque form of a relationship" and "little more than slavery". In a speech on immigration, he said "we should not shy away from addressing" the problem of forced marriage. Rather than announcing plans to criminalise it immediately (for fears that those "at risk" would not report it), Cameron announced that any breach of Forced Marriage Prevention Orders would be against the law.
He said he would be consulting with Theresa May "on making forcing someone to marry an offence in its own right". Earlier this year, calls by the cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee to criminalise forced marriage were rejected by the Home Office, on the grounds that victims would be put off reporting it.
Other family migration proposals
The Prime Minister also pledged to other abuses in the system with regards to family migration. In a move designed to discourage sham marriages, the Government "will make migrants wait longer, to show they really are in a genuine relationship before they can get settlement." He also said "stricter and clearer tests on the genuineness of a relationship" would be imposed, such as both people knowing one another's circumtances and language.
Cameron raised more concerns on the issue of family migration, saying that it accounted for nearly one fifth of non-EU immigration statistics – adding that "nearly 50,000 visas [were] granted to family members of British citizens and those with permanent residence here in the UK. He said there was an "obvious risk" that "migrants and their family will become a significant burden on the welfare system and the taxpayer".
The Government, he said, would look into "further measures to ensure financial independence: discounting promises of support from family and friends, and whether a financial bond would be appropriate in some cases". This section of his speech, has already drawn criticism from Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, who said the issue of financial bonds would "antagonise settled communities in Britain and enrage our allies such as India".
Interestingly, only one reference to the controversial Human Rights Act was made. Cameron said the immigration rules would be rewritten "to reinforce the public interest in seeing foreign criminals and immigration offenders removed from this country and help prevent Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights being misinterpreted". He did however pay tribute to Theresa May and Damian Green, for their "brilliant and dedicated work".
Cameron praised the cap placed on economic migrants coming to the UK in April this year, saying the move had defied critics who believed business would be stifled because of it. The cap, set at 20,700 for the year "has been under-subscribed each and every month since it was introduced" he said, and such a statistic "provides the opportunity to consider with business what further tightening of the system may be possible without undermining growth".
He stressed the need to be "selective" about who comes to the UK for economic reasons, and that the country requires "the brightest and the best" who "deserve the red carpet treatment". Employers would also be encouraged to "take on British workers" to make sure “the British option… is once again the best option”.
On the issue of illegal immigrants, Cameron said it was essential to get "better at finding these people and getting them out of our country". In perhaps one of the more controversial elements to his speech today, Cameron announce the creation of a "new national crime agency with a dedicated border policing command which will have responsibility for safeguarding the security of our border."
He also said it was the duty of the public, and in the public interest for "everyone in the country to help … including by reporting suspected illegal immigrants to our Border Agency through the Crimestoppers phoneline or through the Border Agency website". Cameron's message was seemingly tough and defiant: "together we will reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home".
Despite praising citizenship tests, describing them as "moving", and admitting that in some areas they are working, Cameron said change was also required, using an example of "no questions on British history in the actual test". British history, he said, should become a more integral part of the citizenship test, "at the heart of it" rather than "questions on the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe and the benefits system within the UK".
You can read Cameron's speech in full here.