Sham marriages: One in five UK civil ceremonies could be fake

Senior registrar warns the number of cases reported is 'just the tip of the iceberg'

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The Independent Online

One in five marriages conducted in civil ceremonies in London and some other areas across the UK could be bogus, a senior registrar is warning.

Mark Rimmer, chairman of the Local Registration Services Association, told Sky News that the number of cases reported to the Home Office was “just the tip of the iceberg” and many more people could be abusing immigration law.

He said "it would not be unreasonable" to say up to 20 per cent of weddings in some parts of the country are suspicious, adding that this is the worst it has ever been.

The broadcaster said figures released by the Home Office show the number of reported cases to have tripled within the last three years to 1,800.

But Mr Rimmer suggested the figure could infact be ten times higher, believing 15,000 of the 173,000 civil weddings that take place each year in England and Wales could be sham marriages.

In cities and urban areas of “ethnicity” one in five marriages are suspicious, he added, with bogus ceremonies taking place “multiple times per week” in London.

He said: “In an area like anywhere in London it is multiple times per week ... it would not be unreasonable to say that 20% of all our marriages are suspicious or have some elements of suspicion about them.

“We have seen huge increases in potential sham marriages presenting themselves to us, we now have more reports from registrars going to the Home Office, but I think that is the tip of a very large iceberg, and effectively the real scale of the problem is far greater than that that is reported to the Home Office officially,” he told Sky News.

“Most registration officers are not immigration officers, they came into this business to facilitate marriage. So therefore they don't want to be cynical.

“Unfortunately therefore what happens is the ones that are absolutely blatant get reported and there are some that are borderline that slip through without being reported - and that is the iceberg under the water and that's huge - it is absolutely huge.”