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East End vicars get training on how to spot a sham marriage

PUBLISHED: 16:00 15 September 2010

VICARS are set to get special training in spotting sham marriages in the East End.

In a crackdown on bogus unions in the area, clergymen and women from the Diocese of Chelmsford will be taught how to spot fake identity documents and household bills and given tips on identifying a genuine relationship.

The intensive course follows a series of police operations targeting sham marriages in east London.

The UK Border Agency said a sham marriage typically involves a non-European person marrying someone from Britain in an effort to gain long-term residency, the right to work and claim benefits.

Elwin Cockett, Archdeacon of West Ham, said: “Sadly, we know that some individuals with criminal intent have been abusing the system and the goodwill of local clergy, often exploiting vulnerable people for huge financial gain, and that has to stop.

“For some time we have been working closely with the UK Border Agency to combat that abuse. The training is about equipping front-line clergy who have responsibility week-by-week for interviewing applicants and checking their papers and addresses to identify fraudsters.

“Clergy – often working alone in their parishes – don’t have the resources that the police and UK Border Agency have at their disposal. We welcome all the help that they can give us in the fight against those who would misuse Christian marriage for criminal purposes.”

Tony Erne, deputy area director for the UK Border Agency, said: “We understand that it is not always easy to spot fake documents, and that is why we are happy to work with the Diocese of Chelmsford to provide some basic training.

“Both the UK Border Agency and the Diocese take the issue of sham marriage very seriously, and we recognise that we have to work together to stop it and tackle the criminal gangs behind it.”

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