Immigration to the United Kingdom has been steadily rising over the past 20 years. Although the numbers fluctuate, hundreds of thousands more people now enter the UK every year than leave it, attracted by its (perceived) economic opportunities and political and personal freedoms.
Most Britons seem prepared to welcome them, providing they have entered legally and make an effort to integrate and contribute to society, which of course the vast majority do, but some are becoming less tolerant of the influx. Consequently, in the run up to this year’s UK parliamentary elections (voting takes places on May 7) immigration has become a matter of great contention.
Fearful of appearing weak on the issue, political parties on right and left have clashed repeatedly about which of their respective administrations has set the toughest rules and the highest barriers to entry over the last two decades, with the current Conservative-led coalition government pointing at the barrage of regulations it has introduced in recent years – even though, of course, it has no legal powers to stop the movement of peoples from within the European Union (of which the UK is a member).
Yet as the rules get tougher, it means that people from outside the EU have to try that much harder to get in – and marriage to a partner already entitled to live in Britain is the easiest way.
Every year, over a quarter of a million weddings take place in the UK, mostly between couples with no other motive than a desire to seal a genuine commitment to each other. But among them are thousands of fakes – people who undertake a sham marriage that has been arranged simply because it makes it easier for one of the participants to stay in the country.
Read More: aljazeera