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Oct 16 2013

Sham marriage exposed as not-so-happy couple are led away in handcuffs

harrow_council_logo2These pictures show the moments when officers interrupted a sham marriage in front of surprised of guests. Instead of exchanging vows, the bride and groom were whisked into separate rooms to be interviewed and then led away in handcuffs.

Suspicions were raised about the couple’s intentions beforehand and, unbeknown to the marriage guests, officials from the Home Office lay in wait to call a surprise halt to proceedings as the 32 year old man from Nigeria and his 22 year old bride from Portugal arrived for their ceremony.

After interviewing the bride and groom separately, investigators found that the couple knew little about each other and that the man’s visa had run out. The man has since been sent home to Nigeria, while the woman has been bailed until 7 November.

Cllr Susan Hall, Leader of Harrow Council, said: “We believe in a fair borough and it is simply disgraceful to lie in our registry office in order to cheat the system. It is appalling to see the lengths some people go to in dressing up and organising guests for a sham marriage. A marriage is supposed to be the happiest day in your life. Well, in this case, the couple certainly got a day they won’t forget.”

A sham marriage or civil partnership typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in the UK. In the past financial year the Home Office carried out 792 enforcement operations for suspected marriage abuse cases and arrested 324 people.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “Sham marriages have for too long been an easy target for migrants seeking to circumvent our immigration rules, often assisted by organised criminals. Registrars are frustrated when they marry couples who are obviously sham; we need more effective tools to deal with it. By extending the marriage and civil partnership notice period to 28 days in England and Wales and allowing this to be increased to 70 days in some circumstances we will make time to investigate, prosecute and remove those involved in sham marriages.”

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Photography credit: Dermot Carlin

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