UK immigration rules questioned

16 Dec 2010 | Posted by Carl Thomas

UK immigration rules governing the human right to marriage have been questioned by a European court case.

Judges at Strasbourg's European Court of Human Rights stated that UK immigration rules - designed to prevent sham marriages - were in fact in breach of human rights.

The court made the declaration in reference to the case of Nigerian national Osita Chris Iwu and his wife Sinead O'Donoghue, who met in 2004.

Under UK law, the pair were unable to marry because Mr Iwu did not conform to the requirements.

At the time, these included permission to stay in the country for more than six months with at least three months of that leave remaining for any foreign national wishing to marry out-with the Church of England.

This was later changed in 2006, after the Home Office stated that the scheme interfered with people's human right to marriage. Despite this, the new scheme required a fee of £295 to be paid in order to acquire a certificate of approval; something Mr Iwu was unable to supply due to the fact that he did not have a UK work permit.

The court concluded that, while the UK had the right to set "reasonable" conditions to prevent immigrants conducting sham marriages, the judges had "grave concerns regarding the UK's immigration rules on the specific issue.

In particular, the government was criticised for setting the required certificate fee at a level which was too high for a needy applicant to afford, therefore providing a "powerful disincentive to marriage".

The European Court of Human Rights granted the couple £24,000 in damages and costs from the UK government, along with an extra £295 for the certificate.