Sharp rise in sham marriages

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The Independent Online

The number of suspected sham marriages has leapt by more than half in the past year, according to new figures.

An undercover BBC investigation has highlighted the scale of the problem, uncovering Home Office figures that show a 54 per cent jump in suspected sham marriages in England and Wales. It claims that marriage rackets are using eastern European spouses to provide other migrants with a toehold in the UK.

The figures raise fresh questions after a government scheme designed to stop illegal immigrants marrying was overturned by the law lords in July 2008. Introduced in 2005, the scheme ordered foreigners to obtain the Home Secretary's permission to get married in the UK. Those that did not were denied a certificate of approval.

Registrars had lobbied for the change saying they were unable to stop a rise in bogus marriages, with more than 3,500 suspected cases in one year alone. But the ruling was overturned after law lords argued that it breached human rights as it applied to all foreign nationals without relevant case-by-case discrepancy.

The Immigration minister Phil Woolas told the BBC that the Government regretted the law lords' ruling and was reviewing the law. The Government is considering whether to introduce new methods of controlling marriages involving foreign nationals, including the introduction of biometric checks.