London, Nov.22 : Doubts are being expressed in British Government circles about a new law that will see the minimum age at which foreigners can come to Britain to get married being increased.
There is a view that this law will invite opposition from immigrant communities, particularly Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, who have been involved in most forced marriage cases in the country.
The number of forced marriages being investigated in Britain has risen by 80 per cent this year. In total, 90 per cent of cases dealt with in Britain involve Bangladeshi or Pakistani families, but investigators are uncovering growing numbers of forced marriages involving Iranians, Turks, Kurds and Somalis.
Parents are now using "bounty hunters" and bogus missing persons campaigns in a desperate bid to track down runaway children and make them wed. According to The Telegraph, a special Government unit dedicated to stopping teenagers being married off by their families dealt with 300 cases in the first half of this year, up from 168 in the same period of 2007.
But the head of the Forced Marriage Unit, based at the Foreign Office, fears this could be just the tip of the iceberg as many victims are too scared to come forward and communities often close up to hide what is going on.
Wayne Ives also warned that heads of families are going to extreme lengths to get their children to marry, in some instances posing as officials to kidnap runaway brides or paying people to track them down.
His comments came as a new law comes into effect next week, which will make it easier for courts to stop ceremonies going ahead if it is feared that the bride and groom are being married against their wills.
However, schools have refused to discuss so-called honour crimes in case they cause offence to ethnic minorities or religions, while MPs have been accused of failing to highlight forced marriage in case they lose Muslim votes.
The new Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, which comes into force on November 25, will allow anyone to demand a injunction against a wedding ceremony going ahead or an intended bride or groom being taken overseas. Anyone who breaches these court orders could be prosecuted.
In addition, on November 27 the minimum age at which foreigners can come to Britain to get married will rise from 18 to 21 before a marriage visa can be granted.