Sham marriages in the UK are increasing at an alarming rate, a new report by the Home Affairs Committee has revealed.
Noting that a sham marriage provides UK residence rights not only to one person but to many other family members, the Committee said: “We are not convinced that the Home Office has a true understanding of the scale of the problem.”
The Committee recommended that the law be changed so that if the Home Office enforcement team do not act on a section 24 report from the Registrar and the Registrar is confident the wedding is a sham, then the Registrar should have the power to cancel the wedding.
The Home Office, the Committee said, should provide training on how to identify potential shams and, most importantly, it should provide full, accurate and timely information to the Registrars to tell them what action is being taken as a result of their reports.
Apart from publishing the number of interventions and arrests, the Committee urged the Home Office to also publish the number of prosecutions and the number of people removed from the UK in order to deter people from involving themselves in these activities.
The Committee further urged the Home Office to write to the Embassies of the European nationals who are most commonly involved in sham marriages, and encourage them to inform their UK based citizens that sham marriages can lead to a criminal record and removal from the UK.
“There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control. Marriage is a precious institution and should not be hijacked to make a mockery of the law or our immigration system,” Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said. “The estimated 10,000 sham marriages appear to be increasing at an alarming rate. One sham marriage can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here.”
Mr Vaz said it was absurd that the UK willingly accepts as valid, marriages where the two parties do not attend the ceremony. “This allows an easy ticket into the UK and this proxy marriage loophole must be closed immediately. Without taking these steps the Government will never get a firm grip on a situation which is spiralling out of control.”
The Committee’s report also shows that the total backlog of immigration cases remains at 332,169 and does not appear to be reducing at an appreciable rate.
The total number in the Migration refusal pool has only decreased by 1% since the start of the year despite the Home Office contracting the work to Capita.
The Committee said they were concerned with the large increase in the number of in-country applications where the application has been received and is waiting input onto the Home Office computer system.