Prime Minister David Cameron’s government must do more to tackle an “alarming” increase in bogus marriages that led to as many as 10,000 people applying to stay in Britain last year, a panel of lawmakers said.
The Home Office should publish more information about its efforts to crack down on sham weddings to deter those tempted to use them to gain U.K. residency for themselves and their families, the cross-party House of Commons Home Affairs Committee said in a report today. The burden of proof should also be shifted so people who have “proxy” weddings abroad have to prove they are lawful, the panel said.
“Marriage is a precious institution and should not be hijacked to make a mockery of the law or our immigration system,” Committee Chairman Keith Vaz, from the opposition Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement. The government must take steps to “get a firm grip on a situation which is spiraling out of control,” he said.
Registrars, who preside over civil weddings, should be given the power to stop marriages they think are suspicious and trained to spot them and report their concerns, the committee said. Data from across the country needs to be more consistently gathered and arrests and prosecutions better advertised, they said.
Proxy marriages in countries including Nigeria and Ghana, where people can be married while still in the U.K., should be more closely scrutinized, the committee said. If the couple are genuine, they could be more easily married in Britain, the panel said, and they should be required to prove their marriages are legitimate.
“It is absurd that we willingly accept as valid marriages where the two parties do not attend the ceremony,” Vaz said. “This allows an easy ticket into the U.K. and this proxy- marriage loophole must be closed immediately.”
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