Calls for nationality profiling to stop sham marriages ‘very worrying’
The Home Office defines a sham marriage or sham civil partnership as 'one where the relationship is not genuine but one party hopes to gain an immigration advantage from it. There is no subsisting relationship, dependency, or intent to live as husband and wife or civil partners.
Sham marriages are frequently arranged by intermediaries for payment. In 2018, a sham marriage gang was jailed after its members made more than £500,000 by setting up immigrants with European brides so they could stay in the UK. Women from Eastern Europe are known to have been trafficked to the UK and exploited as sham brides for immigration offenders.
The Home Office has said it considers sham marriage to be ‘one of the most significant threats to immigration control’. Such marriages can provide UK residence rights to an entire family who would otherwise have no right to be here. There was a fivefold increase in reports of suspected sham marriages by registrars over the past decade and a 50% increase between 2012 and 2018.
Previous measures requiring a 'certificate of approval' from the HO for marriages involving non-UK partners were abolished in May 2011 after being struck down by the courts on the grounds that they contravened Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to marry and to found a family).
MigrationWatch UK, the organisation, which campaigns for tougher restrictions on immigration, made the suggestion to start profiling by nationality after claiming there had been a rise in reports of sham marriages over four years.
Calls for nationality profiling to be carried out in a bid to detect sham marriages have been branded “very worrying” by immigration lawyers.
Poppy Firmin, a caseworker in immigration and public law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, told the PA news agency: “The Home Office are doing a very good job already of interfering and delaying with interviews” and “They are subjecting genuine couples to really degrading questions”.
The 2014 Immigration Act included new provisions, which came into force in March 2015. In particular, the gap between notifying intent to marry and the ceremony was extended from 15 to 28 days and could be further extended to 70 days in order to allow the Home Office enough time to investigate the genuineness of the relationship.
Posted on Aug 29, 2019.