In Brief

Sham marriages rising at an 'alarming rate', warn MPs

MPs urge crackdown, saying registrars should be given powers to stop sham weddings 'mid-vow'

The Government needs to take urgent action to tackle the increase in sham weddings conducted in the UK, the home affairs select committee has suggested.

The committee's report estimates that up to 10,000 fake marriages take place in the UK every year. MPs said they were unconvinced that that the Government was aware of the scale of the problem.

Sham weddings are said to occur in Europe when people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) marry EEA citizens in order to obtain residence rights. "There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control", committee chairman Labour MP Keith Vaz told The Times.

A sham marriage does not just grant one person illegal residence in the country, but "can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here", Vaz said.

A Home Office spokesperson told The Guardian that they are "taking ever tougher action, including through the new Immigration Act, to crack down on those who try to cheat our immigration system by abusing marriage laws."

The committee's recommendations to tackle sham weddings include:

  • Giving registrars the power to abort and cancel wedding if they are "confident" it isn't genuine.
  • Involving foreign embassies in warning people not to risk taking part in them.
  • Advertising successful prosecutions.
  • Forcing couples who have proxy weddings (when one of the parties is not present) to prove that the relationship is genuine.
  • Deporting foreign prisoners who have been found guilty of taking part in sham marriages.

However, according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information Request made by the Huffington Post, there is a "disconnect" between the number of arrests and the number of investigations conducted. It says that no arrests were made in at least 40 per cent of the weddings investigated by the Home Office last year.

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