Back to this old chestnut. I’ve been doing a bit more work on the subject and thought I’d share a minor revelation I had while writing an article for one of the immigration law journals. I’ve also learned that there is a judicial review application on this to be heard on 30 October 2009, although having spoken to the barrister instructed he’s not currently planing to challenge the rule itself, just the treatment of the individual client.
As to the minor revelation, I’m ashamed not to have picked up on this before. It is hardly rocket science. The statistics used by the Home Office in the announcement that the spouse and partner visa age would be increased showed that there were more reported forced marriages at certain ages. UKBA then used this information to argue that because there were more forced marriages at these ages, raising the visa age beyond this age bracket would help prevent forced marriages. Simple.
The problems are really, really fundamental ones. First of all, the sample size is tiny in comparison to the total number of marriages that take place at the ages affected. This is one of the justifications used by UKBA for not publishing the research report on forced marriages they commissioned, incidentally. Secondly, I suspect there are more marriages at these ages in the communities believed to be most affected by forced marriage. One would therefore expect there to be more forced marriages as well. If anyone has any ideas on how to find out how many marriages there are at different ages in, for example, the British Asian community, I’d be very interested to hear. There is therefore nothing at all to show that proportionately there are more forced marriages before the age of 21 (and in the research commissioned by the Home Office almost everyone said age is not a factor in determining risk of forced marriage). Thirdly, there is also nothing at all to show that forced marriages are more likely to be a problem if the marriage is to a foreign national – i.e. changing the visa age does nothing to tackle domestic forced marriages.
So, what UKBA are really trying to achieve is a reduction in the number of marriages to foreign nationals, in the alleged hope that this will reduce the number of forced marriages. Yet there is nothing to suggest that the age bracket affected by the change is particularly at risk of forced marriage and there is nothing to suggest that forced marriages are more of a problem in foreign marriages.
Are ministers and civil servants so daft that they think the statistical ‘evidence’ they relied on is strong? Or is this cynical and discriminatory pandering to the anti-immigration lobby? Take your pick, using my statistically sound sampling technique:
I’ll be returning to the theme of dodgy ‘science’ in my next post, on the ominously entitled ‘Human Provenance Project’.