Chancellor Angela Merkel's government moved on Wednesday to outlaw forced marriages against a backdrop of a growing debate about immigration and integration in the country that is home to some four million Muslims.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said forced marriages would be treated as a criminal offence with a jail term of up to five years if the law is passed by parliament. Forced marriages are currently treated as a form of coercion.

"Forced marriage is a problem in Germany and we must take it seriously," de Maiziere said. He added it would be wrong to tolerate forced marriage and merely consider it a tradition belonging to other cultures.

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