30 May 2007

"Tough [illegal] rules expose scale of bogus marriages"

by By Duncan Gardham in The Telegraph 16/05/05

"Since the Asylum and Immigration Act came into force in February [2005] the number of marriage applications at some offices has dropped by 60 per cent.

........ Mark Rimmer, the superintendent registrar at Brent, north-west London, who is on a Government working group, said: 'There has been a significant decrease throughout London.

"In Brent we have seen a huge decrease - 60 per cent in February and March. It is nothing short of remarkable. We had suspicions about roughly 20 per cent of marriages but we could only report them where we had concrete evidence. It now seems that figure was an underestimation.

"The decrease in applications has been significantly higher and that suggests, perhaps, that the estimate of bogus marriages was a gross underestimate."

.......... Karen Knapton, the general secretary of the Society of Registration Officers, said: "If people really want to get married they will persevere but the new regulations have highlighted the scale of bogus marriages. Register offices, especially in London, have been very quiet.

"We have been asking what nationality applicants are for two years but we have been aware that crime rings have been making a lot of money out of sham marriages.

"It has been no fun when we know people have been using marriage to get around immigration laws. It has made a mockery of our job."

Now [May 2007] that the Court of Appeal has held that the rules the Home Office brought in to stem the flow of bogus marriages are illegal, and the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill is proposing remedies for forced marriages, surely it is high time to take a holistic view marriage and of the plight of Registrars rather than just a piecemeal view relating to some minority groups?

Let us return to what Ruth Kelly said in 2002:

"In our White Paper, [Delivering Vital Change] the Government explained that the registration service is ideally placed to act as a focal point for information about services associated with births, deaths and marriages, such as ........ marriage preparation ...... I believe that there is a genuine opportunity for local authorities to develop those services innovatively to meet the needs of their communities, now and in future. A wider role for the registration service will improve on the current piecemeal approach by local authorities and will be underpinned by the proposed national standards."

Nobody needs to eat their words, just get on with Delivering Vital Change!

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