This just in.

The Home Affairs Committee has this morning published its report on the work of the Immigration Directorates, which looks at sham marriages in the UK and the apparent increase in this industry to secure immigration rights. 

The report suggests that the problem is now a large-scale one and one which needs greater powers to tackle. The Committee explains that sham marriages provide UK residence rights not to one person, but to other family members as well.

The Home Affairs Committee make several recommendations, including:

  • A change in the law 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.
  • Allowing The Home Office to provide training on how to identify potential shams and to provide full, accurate and timely information to the Registrars to tell them what action is being taken as a result of their reports.

In a statement on Parliament’s website, Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Commitee says:

“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.

The estimated 10,000 sham marriages appears 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.

The role of Registrars is critical. The Home Office should not only provide them with better feedback and training on reporting but also empower them to stop suspicious marriages.

Data is not being collected in a consistent manner across the UK. We cannot afford for any town or city to become a back door entry to our country. The Government needs to publish the total number of interventions, arrests, prosecutions and removals to prove that action is being taken.

It is absurd that we willingly accept 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 backlogs continue to blight our immigration system with no appreciable reduction. The use of the term service standards is a way of moving the goal posts to relieve the pressure. The Home Office need to act now to ensure this problem is fully cleared as soon as possible.”

Given what we know about  the case of Rapisarda, it is very likely, as we suggested when Munby’s Judgment was first published, that this case does indeed involve sham marriages with the intent to secure UK residence.

Despite Mr Vaz’s obvious rancour at the industry, we hope the government will treat this issue with the sensitivity it deserves. We can’t imagine what it must be like fleeing from war-torn countries or escaping hardship.