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Jersey Registrar blocking one sham marriage a month

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JERSEY’S authorities are blocking at least one sham marriage per month and are planning to toughen up laws to clamp down on the practice.

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During a Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel hearing, Superintendent Registrar Claire Follain explained that citizens from outside the EU were ‘regularly’ trying to get married in the Island as they attempt to acquire British or EU citizenship.

She revealed that she had already had to prevent at least a dozen fraudulent weddings from taking place since she took office in January this year.

In such cases she liaises with Customs to examine the background of both parties and makes an assessment on whether to grant a marriage licence.

And speaking after the hearing she said that the practice of forced or coerced marriages, which can include ‘surprise’ weddings, is taking place in the Island and she has already come across three cases since she began her tenure.

With Jersey’s marriage laws due to be updated next year Ms Follain said that the new legislation, as well as technology upgrades, will allow her department to work closer with Customs and Immigration to clamp down on the abusive practices.

‘We have had several incidents already this year where I have had to block sham marriages. It’s at least one a month and the new laws will allow us to tackle it more,’ she said after the hearing.

‘There are two ways we are going to deal with this – with technology and new laws, which will give us a closer relationship with Customs and Immigration.

‘What will happen is every time someone from outside the EU or European Economic Area applies to get married in Jersey an email will automatically be sent to Customs and Immigration.

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‘It’s a global practice and we are getting people from all over the world trying it.’

She went on to say that Jersey’s laws were also insufficient in preventing forced or coerced marriages at this time.

‘Under the present laws I only have to see one of the partners before the marriage takes place,’ she said.

‘One thing we see happening is people saying they are having “surprise marriages”, where the other partner apparently only finds out on the day they are getting married.

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‘We can speak to the other partner on the day but when everyone is dressed up and ready, they can feel pressurised into getting married.

‘Forced marriages can be cultural – arranged weddings – or they can be due to abusive relationships.

‘Under the new law both partners will be required to see me before the marriage.’

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