NEW GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON SHAM MARRIAGES – Currently any EU citizen may marry anyone outside of the EU resulting in the Government being unable to refuse citizenship and all the benefits that entails.
Of course the current system has been widely used and abused in order to help illegal immigrants to obtain a British / EU passport that allow them to reside in the UK and therefore have access to the taxpayer’s money through our welfare system.
Now the Government has announced it has a solution to the so-called ‘shot-gun’ weddings by changing the law so that the ceremony notification period is extended from 15 days to 28 days.
Currently anyone wishing to get married in the United Kingdom is required to register their intent and allow 15 days for anyone to contest the union. However this is now going to be extended to 28 days so as to allow border officials more time to investigate the proposed union to determine whether it is genuine or simply a sham.
The move will be updated in the Immigration Bill announced by Government yesterday and has been wholly welcomed by campaigners who say that the new system is fair and applies to everyone; even including couples who are both from the UK and wish to marry – this according to legislators complies with current equality laws.
The Home Office recently announced that there are approximately 10,000 marriage applications posted each year by those who are simply gaming the system for the right to reside in the UK, however actual figures are yet to be released and some immigration groups feel that this figure is severely underestimated.
Will this change make it harder for illegal immigrant to obtain a right of residency in the UK? Currently the Home Office suspects some 500,000 illegal immigrants of residing in the UK and that it could take decades to process all the paperwork in order to identify those who are illegal – this was one of the reasons why the Government initiated the ‘Illegal Immigrant Van Poster Campaign’; it was designed to help border officials capture more illegal immigrant.
The plan or campaign if you will, failed miserably and in the process was labeled as a racist and bigoted move by the Government – yes no surprise there but that’s often the way to cover up failure and incompetence within Government.
I doubt very much if the increase will produce any tangible results considering the woefully inadequate performance of the Border Agency.
I fail to see, given the volumes of sham marriages, how the Border Agency is going to effectively investigate and interview the vast volume of marriages per year in the UK.
Whilst the law will dictate, in line with equality laws, that each and every marriage will be investigated it is folly to think that such an exercise could possibly work – if there are a suspected 10,000 sham marriages a year exactly how many marriage applications are made in total?
Despite these obvious points the Government remains adamant that such a measure will make it harder for sham marriages to occur.
There are however a number of other benefits to the amendment of the bill, these being that illegal immigrants will not be able to obtain a drivers licence, open a bank account or rent private property as the bill will require bank managers and landlords to undertake a number of detailed checks in order to ensure that anyone applying for such must prove legitimacy of residency.
According to the Government these additional measures will allow easier removal of illegal immigrants; especially the criminal element.
Unfortunately there are fears that unless the Government is willing, or indeed able, to address issues of the Human Rights Act and Britain’s involvement with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) then any moves to deport illegal immigrants, criminals or otherwise, will be thwarted.
How ineffective is our current system? You really only need to look at the debacle of how existing rules restrict the ability of officials from sharing information with the Home Office when suspected sham marriages are set to take place.
Again this issue has also been raised and the Government has stated that the amendments in the bill will take this into account and rectify this situation so that information can be readily shared in order to combat sham marriages.
There is of course one element of the amendment of the bill that could in fact work in reducing the number of sham marriages. It is to be written so that if a Border Official suspects that the union is bogus they will be able to place a halt to the union by a further 70 days in order to carry out further investigations.
The issue here really is twofold; one being sufficient time whilst the other revolves around manpower. If the Government is able to dedicate more manpower to the scheme this could well have a significant impact on the number of sham marriages.
It could be argued, and it often is, that if we simply pulled out of the EU, washed our hands of the ECHR and scrapped the Human Rights Acts this and many other issues we currently have with illegal immigrants and terrorists could be tackled head on without the need to tippy-toe around EU or internal legislators.
It is of course a positive move but one that could go a lot further and only time will tell just how effective the changes to the Immigration Bill will be.