UK Immigration authorities have received an increasing number of reports from registrars of suspected sham civil partnerships in the past two years, according to figures obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request by the BBC.
Figures were .
Registrars have contacted the UK Border Agency 49 times since 2010 with reports of suspicions about same-sex ceremonies involving foreign nationals.
The Home Office have provided evidence of just two arrests in relation alleged sham civil partnerships.
Registrars are supposed to report their suspicions of a possible sham marriage or civil partnership under Section 24 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, although this does not necessarily mean a sham partnership has taken place.
Last year there were 28 reports and in 2012, there have been 21 reports, the UK Border Agency (UBKA) figures show.
Last June, a 30-year-old Sri Lankan man was detained by officers as he prepared to take part in a suspected sham civil partnership ceremony at Ealing Register Office.
The man was about to enter into a partnership with a man more than twice his age when officers from the UKBA intervened and arrested him for overstaying his visa.
His British partner, aged 68, was also arrested.
The Sri Lankan was detained pending removal from the UK, but the British man was released without charge.
In this case, the Sri Lankan was probably removed on the basis of overstaying his visa rather than for taking part in a suspected sham ceremony.
Had his intended partner been an EEA national he could have avoided removal and extended his leave in the UK, even if he had overstayed or was here illegally, on article 8 human rights grounds.
The UKBA confirmed that Section 24 notifications related to suspicions and that some of the reported civil partnerships reported may have been legitimate.
Mark Rimmer, chairman of the Local Registration Services Association, told the BBC: “Registrars have experienced a significant rise in the incidence of sham marriages since the legislation introduced to combat the problem was repealed in May 2010 as a result of High Court judgements.
“What has been less obvious has been the incidence of sham civil partnerships, and I would certainly urge all registrars to be equally vigilant with regards to these ceremonies.
“The reasons for suspicion are exactly the same as those for marriages, and registrars should not hesitate to report any suspicions to the UK Border Agency”.
In a statement, the UKBA said: “We investigate all reports of suspected sham marriages or civil partnerships and will take tough action against anyone suspected of trying to use marriage or civil partnership to cheat our immigration laws.
“All our operations are intelligence-led, and we would urge anyone with information about anyone breaking the law to contact us.” Source: BBC.
This month UK Border Agency officers arrested 17 people as part of a nationwide operation targeting suspected sham marriages – bogus weddings between non-EU migrants and EU citizens designed to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.
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