An increasing number of migrants are using sham marriages to gain entry to the UK. According to a report by the chief inspector of borders and immigration, non-European immigrants are getting around government controls by entering into sham marriages with EU citizens, thus granting them access to the UK.
The report adds that few of those caught are prosecuted unless they were married through criminal gangs, and many lodge appeals when authorities try to deport them.
The Times quotes chief inspector John Vine say saying: “Our findings suggest that the European citizenship route is becoming an increasingly important way into the UK for those whose origins lie outside the European Economic Area, particularly now that the immigration rules have been tightened.
“Attempted abuse by non-EEA nationals applying on the basis of sham marriage or civil partnership with a European citizen was significant”.
Migrants who are married to EU citizens can apply for a residence card to allow them to stay in Britain, rather than go through the lengthy immigration process. According to the report, almost a quarter of 120 sample cases where a non-EU national applied for a residence card as the spouse of an EU citizen were from Nigeria, followed by Pakistan, Ghana, Algeria, Brazil, Ukraine and Bangladesh.
Mr Vine also warned of an increase in “proxy” marriages, where neither party needs to be present but are instead represented by family members. He said that over 80 percent of a sample of 29 proxy marriages turned out to be invalid.
He also reports that registry officials claim couple are turning up to marriage ceremonies unable to speak the same language, dressed in casual clothes and even send texts during the service.
Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch said: “This a very serious loophole in our immigration system which can be exploited by thousands of bogus applicants. It is yet another issue to be renegotiated.”
A Home Office Spokesman said: “We are taking ever tougher action to crack down on those who try to cheat our immigration system by abusing marriage laws. Last year, we intervened in more than 1,300 sham marriages – more than double that of the previous year.”