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Press Release: R (on the application of Quila and another) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; R (on the application of Bibi and another) v Secretary of State for the Home Department

19 October 2011

Judgment delivered by the UK Supreme Court on 12 October 2011

On 12th October 2011 the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom delivered its judgment in the case R (on the application of Quila and another) v Secretary of State for the Home Department in which the AIRE Centre was granted permission to intervene as a third party. The case was joined with R (on the application of Bibi and another) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and both cases were heard by Lord Phillips, Lady Hale, Lord Brown, Lord Clarke and Lord Wilson on 8th and 9th June 2011.

These cases concerned the application of Rule 277 of the Immigration Rules (HC 395) under which the spouse or civil partner of a British national or someone settled in the UK is prevented from entering and settling in the UK if either party is under the age of 21. A parallel rule applies to fiancés and unmarried or same-sex partners.  The Secretary of State for the Home Department had justified the introduction of this rule as a measure to prevent forced marriages. The couple in Quila had been in a relationship since 2006, when Mr Quila (a Chilean national) was 16 and his wife (a British citizen) was 15. They had entered into a marriage in November 2008. Mr Quila subsequently made an application for a marriage visa which was refused by the Secretary of State on the basis of the amendments made to the Immigration Rules increasing the age limit for spouses to 21. The Secretary of State also refused to exercise discretion in this case even though it was clear that their marriage was not a forced marriage and had been entered into by the free will of both parties. As a result, Mr Quila’s wife had no option but to leave the UK with her husband and return with him to Chile. In doing so she also had to forego the place she had secured at University.

In the lead judgment given by Lord Wilson, the Supreme Court held that the rule was ‘rationally connected to the objective of deterring forced marriages… [b]ut the number of forced marriages which it deters is highly debatable. What seems clear is that the number of unforced marriages which it obstructs from their intended development for up to three years vastly exceeds the number of forced marriages which it deters’. The Court concluded that the Secretary of State had failed to establish that the interference with the rights of the respondents under Article 8, which protects the right to private life, that had been caused by the rule was justified.   

The AIRE Centre is very grateful to Shahram Taghavi of Bates Wells & Braithwaite Solicitors, to Karen Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers and to Eric Fripp of Mitre House Chambers all of whom acted for the Centre pro bono in this matter.

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