26 May 2007

Rules to stop 'sham' marriages unlawful

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor - Daily Telegraph

"Tough rules to stop illegal immigrants using sham marriages to get in to the country were declared unlawful by the Appeal Court yesterday. Judges said regulations brought in two years ago to block thousands of alleged ''marriages of convenience'' breached human rights laws............
The Appeal Court - upholding an earlier High Court ruling - said this was a "disproportionate interference'' in the human right to marry. Lord Justice Buxton said the scheme could only be lawful if it prevented sham marriages intended to improve the immigration status of one of the parties. "To be proportionate, a scheme must either properly investigate individual cases or at least show that it has come close to isolating cases that very likely fall into the target category,'' said Lord Buxton. "It must also show that the marriages targeted do indeed make substantial inroads into the enforcement of immigration control."

Much of the problem is caused the the Government's failure to adopt a holistic approach towards couple relationships. It presents a hostile attitude towards every aspect of marriage. Instead of trying to promote 'healthy marriages', like the Americans, the UK Government is trying merely to prevent bogus marriages, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy etc..

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill needs an amendment [see earlier posts]. Engaged couples should be invited by Registrars to complete an internationally approved programme of marriage preparation such as one of those that meet the criteria of the US government's Healthy Marriage Initiative. At least 2 are available in the UK.

The judges said the Home Office was within its rights to stop sham marriages but it would need to legislate in "a proportionate manner". They said that could mean properly investigating individual cases.

If a couple decline to participate in one of the approved marriage preparation programmes suggested by a Registrar or member of the clergy and the celebrant is suspicious the proposed marriage is bogus, he/she would be behaving in "a proportionate manner" in declining to marry the couple and in referring the matter to the Home Secretary.

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