The number of arrests over immigrants using bogus weddings to stay in the UK has had a huge surge, according to a new Freedom of Information request.
This FoI shows that the number of enforcement visits over sham marriages has surged from 204 in 2010 to 2,488 in 2014 – an increase of over 1,100 per cent over just four years.
Arrests from the practice rose from 137 in 2010 to an astonishing 1,545 in 2014, which is over 840 per cent.
The Home Office estimates 4,000 to 10,000 applications a year to stay in the UK, under the Immigration Rules or under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, are made on the basis of a sham marriage or civil partnership.
The burden on enforcement officials could and should be lifted by providing the power to registrars to cancel weddings rather than just refer suspected sham marriages, where in many cases action is not being taken.
The most common problem is people from outside the European Economic Area seeking marriages with people inside the area so they can gain the right to live in the UK for themselves and their families.
On March 2, 2015, a new scheme to tackle sham marriages and civil partnerships was introduced across the UK under the Immigration Act 2014. All couples where one or both parties could gain an immigration advantage from the marriage or civil partnership are now referred by the registration official to the Home Office.
When the Home Office has reasonable grounds to suspect a sham, they can extend the notice period from 28 days to 70 days in order to investigate the genuineness of the couple’s relationship and, where a sham is established, take appropriate enforcement or casework action.
The Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, said that since April last year 12,253 notices to marry have been referred to the Home Office through the new arrangements.
Mr Brokenshire said: “Of these, 160 proposed marriages were considered a sham, and a further 99 marriages were prevented because couples did not follow the necessary requirements and co-operate with the investigation.
“This is a serious matter on which we have already taken action. Between April and September last year we arrested 528 individuals and removed more than 279 people involved in sham marriages, underlining our focus on that issue.”