A few days ago I saw a documentary* on women who had been duped by foreigners into marriages. It hit me immediately. This is classic grooming: love bombing, often going as far as marriage, just to get their British passport or visa, or to scam money, then vanish.
I made contact with Michelle Nawar, founder of Stop UK Marriage Fraud, who has been campaigning for protection of UK citizens from marriage fraud. She has been campaigning since 2012 and is both knowledgeable and articulate.
Michelle has a wealth of knowledge and understanding and is happy to hear out anyone who has fallen foul of a marriage scam. Like most grooming, until you see it up close and personal it’s fairly hard to understand what happens.
I know when I met my groomer for the first time, I was silently laughing at myself for having feelings for someone I’d never actually met. Cranking that up a gear, if you’ve met them and are being groomed, go figure how you work that one out. Unless you’re hard-hearted enough to believe that love can’t exist across borders, across cultures, across ages (and there are thousands of ‘this works’ examples), it’s almost impossible to tell, especially if their families have apparently welcomed you into the fold and/or there are children involved.
In the year that I’ve been looking at grooming closely, few of the groomers have gone as far as marriage, but in this case, the goal of the grooming IS the marriage, as a passport (almost literally) to something else.
Michelle identifies the four primary motivators:
- To avoid military service.
You’ll see below (related criminality) that the motives, if not the consequent actions, can be far more sinister.
Marriage Scam v Marriage Fraud
A marriage scam is where one party pays the other to marry them. The marriage is fake, and both parties are aware. It’s illegal in most places.
In a marriage fraud, only the fraudulent party is aware of the lack of sincerity, and the other partner is duped into believing it is real. IT’s not given the same treatment as marriage scams.
Michelle met , and was swept off her feet by Walid. She was welcomed into his family, and married him, bringing him to live in England with her where she supported him through a diving qualification.
Eventually he obtained a British passport and visa, and the following day left the marriage. He had what he had married for. What should have been a day of celebration was the day the truth unfurled.
He then went on to marry in his homeland. He retains rights as a British citizen and faces no repercussions for this blatant fraud.
Like most grooming, it usually takes another kind of crime for this to be taken seriously.
In her time campaigning, Michelle has seen:
- Violence: Murder or attempted murder, arson
- Rape or domestic violence: false allegations of rape and domestic violence made against the ‘Sponsor of the Foreign National’
- Financial: Obtaining money by deception, fraud of financial institutions, benefit fraud, tax Evasion
- Identity fraud: fake identities and false passports
- Theft or handling of stolen goods
- Child abduction and child abuse
- Organised crime: Support of terrorist groups, human trafficking, prostitution,honour killings
- Corruption/attempted corruption of police and officials both overseas and in the UK
- Cheating in English tests (ie sending somebody else whose English is better)
This has to be taken seriously.
Michelle and UK Marriage Fraud are campaigning for various things, and CAAGe is happy to join them in campaigning for the following:
- Marriage fraud should be treated as a criminal offence in line with sham marriages;
- Foreign marriage fraudsters should be unable to claim money and assets from British citizens;
- Foreign nationals should be deported in marriage fraud cases;
- The Data Protection Act should be exempted in cases of marriage fraud;
- The UK should seek international agreements with other countries to seize money and assets held overseas in marriage fraud cases;
- The Home Office should have a specialist hotline fore reporting Fraud & illegal immigration.
We will look for practical ways to support these aims going forward.
Although I bow to Michelle’s wider knowledge and understanding of marriage fraud, I personally feel unable to support anything targeted at specific ethnic groups, so our campaigning is less broad than the Stop UK Marriage Fraud ones. I hope she’l forgive me on this front.
However, our campaigning against grooming also extends beyond the UK. Although much of our campaigning is, by dint of location, UK focused, we are happy to help where we can with grooming in other countries. Notably, we are often approached by US citizens, and are happy to offer what help and advice we can.
We look forward to supporting Michelle’s anti-marriage fraud campaign going forward.
As an aside, I have rarely seen more victim blaming than in the case of marriage fraud. These women (and men) have been persuaded, often against their better judgement, by these grooming individuals and their complicit families and friends, that this relationship is genuine. They often end up with debt, the pain of a broken relationship, broken relationships with family…. and then the World wants to call them stupid.
We must inform people better about grooming. It works because it’s credible, insidious, creeping. Their targets got duped, but I’d stake my life that they’ve tried before, failed and refined their MO (modus operandi -way of operating). Let’s put the blame where it belongs: with the groomer, not their victim.
UK Marriage Visa: conditions
UK Marriage Fraud: Facebook page
Ways to get involved with CAAGe: Take action
If you’ve been the victim of marriage fraud, please help us by adding you experience anonymously to our survey: Survey into adult grooming