Britain has nearly half a million Muslims and blacks staying on in the country depite having had their “asylum” claims rejected as false yet the bureaucrats are harassing a perfectly decent couple who have done their best to comply with the rules but have been the victims of bureaucratic sloth and bungling. If she actually is deported it will be a total disgrace perpetrated by a government that claims to “care” but which really cares about nothing other than its own power

A rule meant to protect vulnerable young women from being forced into unwanted marriages is threatening to tear a 19-year-old Canadian away from the new husband she loves. Rochelle Roberts, originally from Revelstoke, B.C., has been told she is about to be deported from the United Kingdom and will not be allowed back in to live with her Welsh husband Adam Wallis, 28, until she is 21 years old.

The newlyweds have become collateral damage in the wake of changes to British immigration law intended to deter British nationals and their families from bringing young, unwilling brides from abroad and forcing them into often-abusive marriages. “It’s not right,” Roberts told the BBC. “There shouldn’t be an age limit on when I should and should not be able to get married and be in love, because it just doesn’t feel right.”

The couple met in Canada two years ago and corresponded online until March last year, when Roberts travelled to visit Wallis at his home near Aberystwyth in Wales, the BBC reported yesterday. She entered the country on a six-month visa with plans to leave again a month later, but she fell in love and decided to get married and stay right where she was.

A month before her visitor visa was set to expire, Roberts and Wallis applied to the British Home Office for permission to marry, which – after delays caused when authorities lost their passport photos – came through about a week before her visa ran out. The couple did not actually get married until two weeks later, which meant Roberts had technically overstayed her official welcome.

A spokesperson from the British Home Office gave her illegal status at the time of their wedding as the official reason why Roberts is going to be deported: “(Her) age was not the reason her application was refused.” But that is not the whole story.

Just four days after the pair married last November, the immigration rules changed and increased the required age for a spousal visa from 18 to 21. That means she could not have returned to Canada to apply for a spousal visa and move straight back to Wales. She would have to wait until 2011, which is how long she is now asked to wait before going back if she is deported.

An official at the UK Border Agency sent a letter to Wallis’ MP, Mark Williams, whom the couple had turned to for help, describing the looming separation as an “inconvenience,” the television report said. “It’s more than just an inconvenience,” Roberts told the BBC. “He’s ripping my marriage apart. He is taking the only thing I have and throwing it away and there is nothing I can do about it.”

The couple believe their case is made all the more bizarre by the fact that in any other country in the European Union they would be treated as a married couple and Roberts would be allowed to work. “It’s insane,” Adam Wallis told the BBC. “I could go to Ireland and she could work from the moment she arrived in Ireland … anywhere in Europe.”

The British government passed the Forced Marriages Act in 2007 as a human-rights measure to give family and civil courts some power to protect thousands of young women from mainly Asian backgrounds – the majority from Pakistan and Bangladesh – being forced to marry against their will. “It is a very real social problem here and is fully linked to perceptions within some communities of issues of shame and honour,” lawyer and part-time judge Khatun Sapnara, who helped draft the legislation, said from London yesterday. “It is quite widespread. I mean there are cases related to families from Europe, Africa, the Middle East as well as Southeast Asia, although the majority of cases affect women from Pakistan and Bangladesh.”

Changing the minimum age came later and Sapnara said she did not agree with it. “I always thought that it might actually prevent people who were legitimately married without any issue of force and that it would interfere with their right to marry someone of their choosing and to live a life together.” She said the Home Office commissioned independent research that showed changing the age limit would do little to prevent forced marriages, but officials decided to ignore its findings. “Overall, we believe there are various benefits (that) outweigh the drawbacks,” the Home Office spokesperson said.

Williams said he was horrified by their story. “(It is) government policy that starts out with good intentions but a blanket approach that nets in the most innocent of people,” the MP told the BBC. Another British parliamentarian said the government might be willing to reconsider the law. “This is clearly a case which needs to be looked at by a minister,” Keith Vaz, who chairs the Commons home affairs select committee, told the Guardian newspaper.

The Home Office would not reveal the timeline for deportation, but Roberts fears it could happen any time. “I’m living on edge because I don’t know if they’re going to turn up at six o’clock in the morning and grab me and chuck me out of the country,” she told the BBC. “We don’t know what our life holds, really, it’s in flux almost,” said Wallis, who recently started a new job as an electrical technician. “We can’t make plans.”