A dramatic increase in sham marriages in the UK over the past 12 months has been largely blamed on a ruling by the House of Lords.
The British Government had taken great pride in its crackdown on bogus marriages, primarily sought to gain permanent residence, with the Home Office deciding in 2005 that foreign nationals needed permission to marry in the UK prior to applying for a UK marriage visa. This policy had a very positive impact on the reduction on sham marriages, with the 2004 figures, prior to the crackdown, showing 3,500 bogus marriages in the UK, with the 2005 figures significant lower, at only 500.
Unfortunately, the House of Lords ruling, which has decided that it breaches human rights to demand that foreign nationals need permission to marry in the UK, so this loophole remains open. Understandably, the Home Office is frustrated with the decision, particularly as it had such a quick and effective impact on the levels of bogus marriages in the UK, with Immigration minister Phil Woolas saying that he regretted the Lord’s decision and was looking into the legal options.
The impact of the Lord’s ruling has too had a quick impact on the bogus marriage figures, with the 2008 figures showing only 344 cases whereas the 11 months since the ruling, up to November 2009, already listing 529 bogus marriages.
This represents a 54 per cent increase since the House of Lord’s decision, reached, it was reported, because it was felt that the crackdown impacted on those that were not attempting to fraudulently gain a UK marriage visa. However, pressure is mounting on the UK Government to maintain a tight defence again illegal immigration and sham marriages in order to gain a UK marriage visa, particularly as a General Election is due to take place in the spring and it is considered a key political issue.