A new crime sub-category has emerged in Britain after same-sex marriages were made legal in March: fake marriages between same-sex couples for a fee that enables a non-EU citizen skirt strict visa rules and stay in the country after ‘marrying’ a UK/EU citizen.
Organised gangs provide a man or woman for an all-expenses fee of 10,000 pounds, so that the non-EU citizen can enter into the fake marriage. Registrars and immigration officials are said to be struggling to stop such marriages.
The usual modus operandi of such ‘marriages’ is that after it is registered, the two individuals go their separate ways, and file for divorce after the non-EU citizen gets permission to stay in the country after the mandatory period.
In the past, several Indian citizens were arrested for being part of such fake but different sex marriages. After March, when same-sex marriages became legal, there are no reports yet of Indians being involved in such fake marriages.
However, a BBC sting operation telecast on Monday shows an Asian undercover reporter being given the name of ‘Ruby’ from Mumbai by a gang member, who organised the fake marriage, so that she could stay in the country. ‘Ruby’ posed as an illegal immigrant urgently seeking a fake marriage to stay in the UK, while another posed as her uncle.
The gang offered two potential fake Romanian brides to the reporter, both of whom explicitly stated they were not lesbians but were willing to pretend to be gay and marry anyone for cash. Romania joined the EU in 2007, and from January this year, UK lifted temporary restrictions on them to move here.
Peter and Ricardo, the gang's leaders, boasted to the undercover reporters they had ‘fixed’ weddings ‘lots of times’, while one of the girls, Alexandra, said she had previously organised six fake weddings and knew how to deceive immigration officers.
She says in the undercover footage: "We have to declare we live together… That's not gonna happen but that's what we have to declare." She said she could also arrange a "romantic" photo-shoot of the undercover reporter and herself, designed to persuade the authorities that they were in a genuine relationship.
Mark Rimmer, head of Registration and Nationality Services in the London borough of Brent, told BBC: "Here in Brent, the Home Office stops marriages on a weekly basis…I think it is probably more difficult to spot the signs if you have a same sex couple whether they be male or female."
Minister for Immigration and Security, James Brokenshire, said the sting had uncovered disturbing evidence, and added: "Registrars will be given new powers later this year to better identify all fraudulent marriages."