The Home Office has been dubbed a 'shambles' for failing to prosecute hundreds of immigrant fraudsters who con Britons into getting married, purely to obtain a UK visa. MPs have warned that the problem of sham marriages is becoming an increasing problem as overseas nationals look to circumvent tough UK visa laws.
Victims say that the Home Office is not doing enough to combat the problem. It's estimated that 1,000 cases of 'fake' marriages have been reported in the last 12 months alone.
New Home Office Intelligence Unit
The Home Office has responded by setting up a new intelligence unit to deal with the growing problem, but victims say the Government needs to 'wake up' and begin investigating cases.
Immigration Fraud UK
Kim Sow, of victim support group Immigration Fraud UK, said: "These cons are calculated and well planned. What the authorities need to realise is that is more than just gaining citizenship, they're after as many material assets as they can get."
Mrs Sow, 58, has been an advocate for action after her Senegalese husband, Laye, left her in 2013 once he'd acquired British Citizenship. She was also left £50,000 in debt.
Following the split, Mrs Sow set-up Immigration Fraud UK with another victim, Delene Alouane, who lost £150,000 to her Tunisian ex-husband.
The group has since been contacted by over 600 people, 70 percent women and 30 percent men, duped into marriage so that their immigrant spouses can acquire a visa.
Following marriage, perpetrators lodge an application to settle in the UK with their spouse, before leaving them "high and dry" after being granted indefinite leave to remain or citizenship, say 'victims'.
Once the marriage has ended, it is frequently the case that the immigrant fraudster spouse is a co-owner of the marital home. It is very possible that the fraudster has been able to persuaded the UK spouse to add their name on the title deeds for the property with the Land Registry.
Quite often, fraudsters will also rack up huge debts on credit cards and loans, which are secured against the property owned by the victim.
It's these kinds of actions that Mrs Sow fell victim to when marrying Laye. She met him at a London nightclub in May 2007; he misled her right from the beginning. He claimed that he was a widower with three children back in Senegal.
In 2010, Laye was granted UK citizenship and that's when Mrs Sow found out the truth about her husband. She discovered his wife was still alive, and that he was the father of an unborn child expected by another British woman he'd been having an 'affair' with.
It transpired that Laye was also under investigation by Dutch immigration police, after marrying a Dutch woman in 2002. He is accused of bigamy and fraud.
James Brokenshire, the UK's Immigration Minister, has said that the Home is tightening the rules on UK citizens marrying overseas partners.