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Sham marriages soar to beat UK immigration laws | Immigration Matters

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The number of suspected ‘sham’ or bogus marriages by illegal immigrants has risen by more than half in the past year according Home Office reports.

Home Office figures for 2009 reveal a massive 54% jump, with 529 suspected cases reported by registrars in England and Wales.

The leap comes after the Law Lords overturned a government scheme specifically designed to stop illegal immigrants marrying.

Registrars have told the BBC that marriage rackets are using Eastern European brides to provide other migrants with a toehold in the UK.

The scale of the problem has been highlighted in a special BBC investigation in which a reporter posed as an illegal immigrant – and quickly found people offering to help him marry.

In 2005, the UK government told foreigners they needed the Home Secretary’s permission to get married in the UK. If someone did not have a legal right to be in the country, they were denied a certificate of approval.

Registrars had lobbied for the change saying they had been powerless to stop a massive rise in bogus marriages, with more than 3,500 suspected cases in one year alone.

Within months of the introduction of the Home Secretary’s veto, the number of cases dropped dramatically.

But the Law Lords later ruled that the approval scheme breached human rights because it unfairly affected almost every foreign national, without trying to work out whether a couple were conning the system or not. 

The latest Home Office figures show that in 2008, the last year the scheme was in force, registrars reported 344 marriages to the home secretary for further investigation.

In the 11 months to the end of November last year, the number of suspected cases went up by more than half to 529.

Registrars have told the BBC that sham marriage rackets have returned and many are using Eastern European spouses who have a legal right to be in the UK. This makes it easier for the migrant from another part of the world to settle.

Mark Rimmer, the superintendent registrar for the London Borough of Brent, said: “The government legislated to address the issue and were very successful.

“If nothing is done, I think we will go back to where we were. We had people queuing up in our waiting area – all of them were just bogus marriage after bogus marriage.”

Mr Rimmer said registrars were seeing cases where the couple could not speak each other’s language and their body language made it obvious that they barely knew each other.

“Pakistani and Portuguese is one that has seemed to crop up recently. If you see one [couple] … that’s OK. But when you see three in a week, you start to think that something strange is going on.”

Immigration minister Phil Woolas said the government regretted the Law Lords’ ruling and was looking again at the law.

But he added: “Just because someone is married does not mean at all that their immigration status is granted.

“The registrars have a system of reporting where they think a marriage is not genuine. Those reports are then used by the immigration officials. The issue of marriage is different to immigration status. A visa will not be issued if there is reason to think the marriage is not genuine.”

The government is considering whether to introduce new methods of controlling marriages involving foreign nationals, including the introduction of biometric checks. Source: BBC

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One Response to “Sham marriages soar to beat UK immigration laws”
Read them below or add one

  1. Livid!!! says :

    I am absolutely guttered and disgusted by the means this process is being carried out. I am married and applying for my wife to join me here. I work two jobs, have an apartment and meet all other sponsor requirements, as does my wife in terms of her requirements. However, we have been refused visa on the basis that they do not believe the marriage to be ‘valid’, and have asked us to provide the verbal agreement made between my wife and me to say we agreed to get married. How on earth do you do that! We have already provided emails dating back half a year prior to our wedding, which shows we were communicating at that time. I am unable to aquire any phone bills dating that far back, but they should be able to judge fairly looking at the evidence in front of them that we are both in agreement to this. They have photos of the wedding, I doubt any bogus marriage would even spend a quarter of what we spent for our wedding. I honestly feel let down by the system that is meant to be there to filter out all sham marriages and bring the genuine couples together. Believe me there is not more to it than I have stated here. And they keep changing the reason for refusal, as I always answer their question with official papers stamped, signed and dated. I am pretty sure they are not allowed to do this as they should review the case on the initial application and give any grounds of refusal from there. Once the reason for refusal has been answered in full, there should be no reason for them to review the entire application again and note insignificant points out as I mentioned above. Also, if you have a valid marriage certificate, can they really turn around and say they do not believe it to be valid, by all means I do not mean forged.

    Any light on this would be greatly appreciated, I can not afford a solicitor, unfortunately I still have to pay tax, rent, utility bills, ever-rising petrol prices and any other nonsense that drops through the letter box.

    Thanks and regards,

    ‘Misses his wife greatly’

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