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Migrant marriage teenagers lose High Court battle

7 December 09 22:43 GMT

A couple have lost a High Court battle against a government immigration policy aimed at combating forced marriages.

The policy meant Briton Amber Aguilar, 18, from London, left her UK life to live in Chile, her husband's country of origin, after his student visa expired.

Under the policy her husband Diego, 19, cannot have a new visa to live in the UK with his wife until both reach 21.

Mr Justice Burnett ruled the home secretary had not acted irrationally and the legal case must be dismissed.

The couple went to the High Court to apply for a judicial review of the Home Office's decision, arguing that there had been a violation of the couple's right to family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But the judge said "no lack of respect under Article 8" had been demonstrated.

The age limit for a marriage visa to be issued to a foreign national was raised from 18 to 21 by the Home Office on 27 November 2008.

It made the move to protect younger men and women from forced marriages.

The change to the law came five days after the couple's wedding.

Christopher Jacobs, appearing for Mr and Mrs Aguilar, had argued that the teenage couple were being penalised because of an "irrational and unreasonable" refusal by the home secretary to allow exceptions to the rule in cases where marriages were clearly not forced.

The judge said the couple had been "the unlucky victims of the rule change", but added that it could not be said the home secretary had acted irrationally in failing to grant Mr Aguilar permission to remain in the UK "outside the rules".

Mrs Aguilar said the decision came as "a huge disappointment" and she was "heartbroken".

She now has to decide whether to continue living with her husband in Chile or return to the UK without him to pursue her education.

"I cannot live without Diego but I desperately want to start my education so I can teach languages in the UK," she said.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the policy had been introduced "to stamp out forced marriages" which he described as "an appalling and indefensible practice".

He said victims "can suffer physical and emotional damage" and can find themselves "being held unlawfully captive, assaulted and raped".

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