Step required to ensure confidence in immigration system
7th July 2011: MigrationWatch UK has called for stricter rules for Brits wanting to tie the knot with a foreign partner. This, the organisation believes, is required to ensure confidence in the immigration system.
Calling for a crackdown on marriages solemnized for immigration purposes, MigrationWatch UK claimed these could be "harmful to the cohesion of our society".
Suggesting means of making the rules stricter, the organisation has recommended holding of full interviews with those wanting marriage visas. The focus should specifically be on those with a low average age of marriage. It has also suggested tougher earnings and language conditions before a visa is granted.
The assertion is significant as number of foreigners granted leave to enter the UK as spouses registered an increase from 21,000 in 1992 to 47,000 in 2006. it, however, dipped to 31,000 in 2009.
The ones largely affected would be foreign spouses from Pakistan or India and from Bangladesh. Combines, they account for almost one in three foreign spouses in 2009.
In its report, the campaign group asserted "virtual abandonment" of the interview process in recent years "leaves the door wide open for marriages where one or both parties have come under pressure to marry against their will".
"It also fails to ensure that the spouse will not become a burden on public funds and that the spouse has the language skills necessary to integrate into wider society," it said.
Sir Andrew Green, the group’s chairman, claimed the recommendations would be "fair to those who seek to marry a foreign partner while also commanding the confidence of the majority of the population – something which at present is sadly lacking".
"It is now time to move on from marriages arranged purely for immigration purposes, often under a degree of family or social pressure that falls short of being actually ‘forced’, he said.
"Such marriages cause a lot of misery to those directly involved and are harmful, to the cohesion of our society, as many in the Asian community would privately agree."
Sham marriages are usually attempted as a way of gaining long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits.
They involve situations where a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area, including the UK.
Immigration Minister Damian Green has already asserted: ‘We will not tolerate immigration abuse, including sham marriages.
The assertion comes at a time when certificate of approval scheme, initially put into use to help minimise the occurrences of sham marriages, has been scrapped.
As per the scheme, people not permanently settled in the UK legally required Home Office permission to marry.
The decision comes, as the scheme had ceased to be effective following court rulings.
The Home Office said it has `been using a certificate of approval scheme to help minimise the occurrences of sham marriages.
`The scheme meant people not legally permanently settled in the UK needed Home Office permission to marry.
`But in 2008, Law Lords ruled that the powers discriminated against foreign nationals on human rights grounds.
`And changes made following subsequent court rulings have weakened the scheme, meaning that it is no longer an effective method of countering the practice of sham marriage’