Leeds’s sham marriages shame

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One in three non-EU men applying to marry EU brides at Leeds Town Hall are believed to be planning sham marriages.

In a two-week campaign by immigration police, 30 out of 80 applications for weddings were dropped or not proceeded with by couples, when questions were asked.

The initiative is part of a nationwide campaign to target bogus marriage arrangers believed to be netting between £5,000 and £15,000 a go.

Agency staff have been based at Leeds Town Hall and have spoken to 70 couples. As a result, 20 said they would not go ahead with their wedding.

Ten couples thought to have become aware of the Border Agency operation did not even turn up for interview – all had paid the £67 fee to apply for a marriage between a non-EU resident and an EU person.

Yesterday a Yorkshire Evening Post reporter watched as two couples left after deciding not to go ahead with their weddding after talking to Border Agency officers. These included a 17-year-old Hungarian girl with a letter of permission to marry from her father who was with her and her older Pakistan-born proposed groom.

During the campaign one couple “did a runner”

UK Border Agency officers. Four people were arrested for being illegal immigrants or breaching visas and seven more people are to be interviewed later.

Leeds Town Hall is one of the centres in the NE where Non-EU people must apply to marry EU partners.

A number of sham marriage ceremonies have been halted at Leeds Town Hall previously and some have already led to prosecution.

The scale of sham marriages is not clear, but they may also go on in churches where clergy may be duped. There has been training on how to spot bogus couples,

Andy Radcliffe, manager of the NE UK Border Agency Immigration Crime Team, said: “We will take a zero tolerance to those involved in this illegal activity.”

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