David Barrett, Telegraph (London), January 23, 2014
Sham marriages are a “massive loophole” in Britain’s border controls and amount to a “golden ticket” into the country for immigrants, an official report has warned.
John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, highlighted serious failings in the way officials are attempting to combat bogus marriages.
He found evidence it could be a “growing problem”, but intelligence on the true picture was “lagging behind”.
The report said Home Office analysts said the four main non-European nationalities involved in sham marriages were Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nigerian.
Men made up more than eight out of 10 of the non-European half of the arrangement. They were typically trying to marry someone from the newer eastern European states.
The report described how many of the women arrived in the country only a few days before the ceremony, and were referred to by immigration officials as “awayday brides”.
A significant number of sham marriages may be going undetected because register offices are failing to report suspicious couples to immigration officials, the report added.
“A Home Office senior manager described the obtaining of residency through sham marriage as akin to a ‘golden ticket’,” it said.
“All staff we interviewed . . . stressed the importance of receiving co-operation from registrars in tackling sham marriage.
“One went so far as to describe sham marriage as a ‘massive loophole in the immigration rules’.”
Just 20 register offices reported more suspicious marriages to the Home Office than the other 88 offices put together, the investigation found.
No reports at all were received from some of the country’s largest cities – although the inspector declined to reveal which ones.
Mr Vine said: “Many register offices refer few, if any, cases of suspected sham marriage to the Home Office, despite the fact that they have a statutory duty to do so.
“This means that a significant number of sham marriages may be going undetected.
“It also creates a risk that sham marriages will be displaced from areas where they are identified to those where they are not.”
He said the Home Office should work with the General Register Office to ensure that all suspicions are reported.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Registrars have a duty to report suspected sham marriages to the Home Office and we are working more closely with the General Register Office to increase awareness and improve the national response.
“The Immigration Bill will introduce new measures to give our officers and registrars more time to investigate, prosecute and remove those attempting to stage sham marriages.”