British court scraps ban on sham marriages by immigrants

July 31st, 2008 - 11:24 am ICT by IANS  

London, July 31 (IANS) Immigrants, legal or illegal, can use sham marriages to continue to stay in Britain. A court has ruled against the blanket ban on such marriages and an appeals court has upheld that ruling. It says the ban breaches human rights. The ban came into force in 2004 following the government’s concerns about thousands of bogus marriages by immigrants to stay in Britain. It was declared illegal by the high court in April 2006 following an appeal by three couples whose marriages were banned. The Law Lords upheld the ruling Wednesday.

Now the government will have to examine each sham marriage case on its merits. This will only encourage more sham marriages, authorities said.

The Law Lords said the ban was an “arbitrary and unjust interference” with human rights.

Baroness Hale said: “Denying those benefits to a couple whose relationship is genuine is neither a rational nor a proportionate response to the legitimate aims of a firm and fair immigration policy.”

In April, a high court judge had concluded that the restrictions were not rationally connected because they prevented weddings only in non-Anglican religious ceremonies and the government had not proved or even asserted that these ceremonies were being used for bogus weddings.

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