A Sri Lankan man has been caught attempting to tie the knot with an Italian woman as immigration officers interrupted the couple’s ‘sham marriage’ in Harrow.
With an Italian wife on his arm, the 23-year-old would have been considered an EU citizen and under European law he would have been entitled to claim benefits in the UK.
A Home Office immigration enforcement team raided Harrow Registry Office yesterday, shortly after 2pm, as the pair prepared to say their vows.
Acting on intelligence, which suggested the ‘relationship’ may not be genuine, officers put a stop to the nuptials and detained the ‘bride and groom’.
With full co-operation from the Superintendent Registrar, the team intervened and questioned the 23-year-old Sri Lankan, who was found to have overstayed his visa.
He had been due to marry a 21-year-old Italian woman.
The ‘bride’ was quizzed by officers and released, while her betrothed was placed on immigration bail while further inquiries take place.
He faces being deported from the UK if he is found to have no reason to stay in the country.
Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: ‘We are determined to stop migrants abusing the marriage system to cheat immigration rules.
‘The gangs involved in this criminal activity often have links to serious organised crime, and prey on some of society’s most vulnerable people.
‘Measures outlined in the Immigration Bill include extending the marriage and civil penalty notice period to 28 days in England and Wales, and 70 days in some circumstances.
‘This will give our officers and registrars more time to investigate, prosecute and remove those attempting to stage sham marriages.’
A sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK.
Cllr Susan Hall, leader of Harrow Council, said: ‘The institution of marriage at council register services is being undermined by a cynical marital merry go-round of corruption and deceit.
‘It gives a new meaning to the old TV series Blind Date – couples who turn up to council services frequently haven’t seen each other before and as for the language of love – well they frequently don’t have one in common either.
‘I welcome the Home Office action in Harrow today and I hope it sends a strong signal that the honeymoon is over for bogus brides and grooms in Harrow.’
Anyone with information about suspected immigration abuse can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or visit http://www.crimestoppers-uk.org
NEW LEGISLATION PROPOSED TO TACKLE SHAM MARRIAGES
A sham marriage is also known as a marriage of convenience.A couple typically tie the knot with the intent of deceiving immigration officials.While referred to as a ‘sham’ the marriage is still legally valid if it conformed to the legal requirements.A sham marriage is often used to allow a foreign partner to live and possibly gain citizenship in the UK.Money is often offered as an incentive.The Home Office estimates that 4,000 to 10,000 applications a year to stay in the UK are made on the basis of a sham marriage or civil partnership.Registration officials already have a duty to report suspected sham marriages and civil partnerships to the Home Office.A registrar cannot, however, stop a marriage or civil partnership they believe to be a sham.Currently there is a 15-day notice period, to allow Home Office officials to act before the ceremony takes place.New legislation proposed by the government in the Immigration Bill will increase that notice period to 28 days in England and Wales.New laws proposed will also allow immigration officers to extend the notice period to 70 days in cases where intelligence is gathered or other relevant information is available to suspect a sham partnership.
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