One in 10 marriages involving immigrants may be fake, the Home Affairs Select Committee says, demanding that the government do more to tackle the alarming increase in sham weddings in the UK.
A report by the committee, chaired by Labour MP Keith Vaz, claimed that up to 10,000 fake marriages take place in the UK every year leading to as much as 40,000 immigrants settling or entering the UK illegally.
“There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control”, Mr Vaz told The Times.
A sham marriage does not just grant one person illegal residence in the country, but “can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here”, Vaz said.
A Home Office spokesperson told The Guardian that they are “taking ever tougher action, including through the new Immigration Act, to crack down on those who try to cheat our immigration system by abusing marriage laws.”
The committee has made several recommendations to tackle sham weddings, including giving registrars the power to cancel a wedding if they are concerned about its genuineness and involving foreign missions to warn people not to risk taking part in sham weddings.
Some 2,135 marriages were reported as suspicious by registrars last year, up from 934 in 2010.
The law obliges registrars to inform the Home Office if they have “reasonable grounds to suspect that a marriage or civil partnership is a sham being entered into for immigration purposes”.
There are concerns that growing numbers of EU nationals with a right to reside in Britain are being used to secure passports for people outside the continent.
More than a third of EU nationals, 36 per cent, applying to stay in this country were born outside the EU and had gained European nationality before arriving in Britain.
The report comes as an investigation by the Huffington Post revealed a “disconnect” between the number of arrests and the number of investigations conducted.
It says that no arrests were made in at least 40 per cent of the weddings investigated by the Home Office last year.