Reporting: Summary

Exercise 17

In a paragraph of around 100 words, explain the legal position of foreigners who married British people at the time when the article was written, and the effect that this had on Mr and Mrs Pond.

The marriages that Britain splits up

Caroline Pond sets off on Thursday on a 4,500-mile journey to visit her husband, Daniel, and two step-children. Against their will, she and Daniel are forced to live in different continents.
The reason: Caroline is one of hundreds of British wives who are victims of a law which prevents their foreign husbands joining them in this country. This law makes it almost impossible for a British woman to marry a foreigner - unless she is prepared to live in her husband's native country. But the law, which was intended to reduce the number of immigrants coining into the United Kingdom, does not apply to the British male who marries a foreign woman. He is legally entitled to bring her to live with him in this country.
'In the eyes of the law, women are second-class citizens,' Caroline says. 'In this country, we have about as many rights as a dog which belongs to a man.'
Caroline, 27, is a demonstrator in physiology in the Zoology Department at Oxford University; Daniel is an associate professor of biology at Michigan University. Before they married eight months ago, she applied to the Home Office for permission for him to live in Britain. 'It is a waste of time,' she says. 'The answer is always "never".'
For the sake of her career, Caroline wishes to stay in her job for at least another 18 months and the couple were hoping to live in the small Victorian house she owns at Oxford. Ideally, while his wife is at the university, Daniel would have liked to come here and write scientific text-books.
'We have both accepted that I should be the breadwinner,' Caroline says. 'Daniel has always looked after the children and would continue to do so. I cannot understand why there is this discrimination against women. After all, I pay the same taxes as a man.'
However, they have now resigned themselves to a commuter marriage for the next 18 months. During their courtship and marriage, Daniel and Caroline have already crossed the Atlantic 20 times between them. 'We are lucky, because we can afford to pay the fares, but there must be many women who cannot,' she says.
Before she leaves finally to make her home in the United States, she is determined to campaign for the reform of the law. 'I feel very strongly that if it is the last thing I do before I have to live in America, it should be for this cause.'
The discriminatory measure, unchallenged in the House of Commons, was introduced in 1969 by James Callaghan, then Home Secretary. He described it as an 'administrative measure' to stop abuse of the law which allowed a male Commonwealth citizen to enter this country if he could prove that he was to marry a British girl.
Two years later under the Conservatives, the Immigration Act took the matter even further by stating that no foreign husband married to a British girl 'has claim to settlement in right of his wife unless... the [Home] Secretary is satisfied that there are special considerations, whether of a family nature or otherwise, which render exclusion undesirable'.
Mrs Mary Dines, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of immigrants, says that hardship has now been defined by test cases as meaning that the wife would, if forced to live in her husband's country, suffer through political persecution, race, creed or difference of culture.
She comments: 'if you can prove you were marrying a Nigerian and would have to live in the bush, you would probably get off; but if you were marrying someone from, say, Cyprus, Greece or America, you wouldn't stand a chance.'
Moves are now afoot in both Houses of Parliament to end this discrimination. In the Lords, the Labour peer Lord Brockway has tabled a motion on equal immigration rights for women; and Mrs Lynda Chalker, the new Conservative M.P. for Wallasey, will put down a question in the Commons this week.
Mrs Chalker is collecting a dossier of cases - already she has more than 150. She believes that few British women are fully aware of the problems they may encounter if they consider marrying a foreigner and feels that more publicity should be given to the possible consequences. 'We should let the poor girls know what they are letting themselves in for,' she says.

(Report by Wendy Hughes in The Sunday Times)

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