TWENTY South Yorkshire homes were raided by police and Border Agency officers as part of a probe into a suspected sham marriage gang operating from the town.
The Rotherham raids, which led to 10 arrests, were the culmination of an operation looking at an international gangs in which women are offered for sale as fake brides for Pakistani men to marry so they can move to the UK.
Suspected gang members – eight women and two men, aged between 19 and 36, from Pakistan, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – were arrested and quizzed.
The operation was mounted after the discovery some Eastern European women, who as members of the EU are legally entitled to work in Britain, have been cashing in on that right by selling themselves as ‘brides’ to would-be migrants.
Detective Sergeant Alisdair Duncan, from the UK Border Agency’s Immigration Crime Team which led the operation, said: “We have arrested several suspects who we believe are part of an organised crime group and who have played a pivotal role in attempting to breach immigration law and in assisting others to do so.
“We believe we have cracked an organised conspiracy in which marriage fixers and European brides were making money from Pakistani grooms desperate to find a way to stay in the UK. Anyone trying to benefit illegally from the privileges of life in the UK faces prison and deportation.”
Jeremy Oppenheim, regional director for the UK Border Agency in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “We will not tolerate immigration abuse and will punish those who break immigration laws. Our aim isn’t just to prevent illegal migration but also to identify and take out those criminals behind these immigration scams.
“The arrests show our dedicated Immigration Crime Teams are well adept at keeping in step with ever more sophisticated criminal enterprises.
“Under our tough rules, anyone trying to play the system can expect to face imprisonment for up to seven years. It is a criminal offence to be in the UK through deception or to facilitate illegal entry into the UK, and we will fully investigate any allegations that are passed to us.
“If you want to get married marry for love – not for money.This is the largest operation of its kind we have done in the area.”
The UK Border Agency is stressing that officers conduct checks on all visa applications and all officers are trained in forgery detection.
Those found using fraudulent documentation or attempting deception will be refused a visa and face a ban from entering the UK for up to 10 years. Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.