Sham marriage problem “spiralling out of control”

Thousands of immigrants could be entering the country every year through sham marriages, MPs have revealed.

Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, fears that the problem is escalating at an “alarming” rate.

Around 2135 weddings aroused suspicions in 2013, more than double the number of three years ago.

This only refers to the cases that were referred to the Home Office; it is believed that the true number of suspect ceremonies is significantly higher.

“There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control,” said Mr Vaz.

“One sham marriage can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here.”

The committee has said that the problem poses one of the single greatest challenges to immigration control and they have called for action to tackle the problem.

One of the ideas being considered is to give registrars the power to refuse to conduct marriages they believe are bogus.

Other measures being mooted include high-profile prosecutions and asking foreign embassies to issue warnings against the practice

While officials have found it difficult in the past to gauge the true scale of sham marriages, the Home Office has insisted it takes the issue very seriously.

“We are taking ever tougher action, including through the new Immigration Act, to crack down on those who try to cheat our immigration system by abusing marriage laws,” said a spokesman.

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