War on bogus immigrants' sham marriages 'is a breach of human rights'
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:01 PM on 30th July 2008
Jacqui Smith's bid to ban bogus marriages between immigrants have fallen foul of the Law Lords
A crackdown on sham marriages is 'in tatters' after the House of Lords ruled that it breaches the human rights of immigrants.
Law Lords said forcing a migrant to prove a relationship is genuine is 'arbitrary and unjust', even if they were getting married only weeks before their permission to stay in Britain ran out.
Foreigners will now once again be free to prolong their stay in the UK by getting married at the last minute to a person who already has permission to live here.
The crackdown was introduced by Labour in February 2005 after the number of suspected sham ceremonies – often arranged by criminal gangs who could earn 10,000 a time – reached 3,700. It cut this to around 300 a year.
It was targeted at those who marry Britons, or EU citizens with full residency rights, in order to gain permission to live here indefinitely.
Migrants were forced to seek a special certificate to marry if they lived outside the EU, or had only limited rights to live in the UK.
Those with only three months leave to stay remaining were routinely refused on the grounds that the ceremony was intended only to avoid removal from the country.
Today's ruling demolished this law, on the grounds that it is a breach of Section 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to marry.
The Home Office will now be forced to consider the merits of a union being made even at the very last moment before a migrant is due to leave the UK.
Three couples who had initially been refused the right to marry by the Home Office brought the cases to the courts.
Habib Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, declared: 'The Government's policy is now in tatters. It will have to go back to the drawing board.'
The Lords were upholding a judgment by the Appeal Court.