By Emeka Aginam, Asst. Online Editor
AS part of its commitment to fightÂ bogus colleges and organized traffickers as well as illegal working and sham marriages in the United Kingdom, aÂ Nigerian man and a French woman yesterday, were theÂ latest people to be jailed as a result of a UK Border Agency investigation into sham marriages in Northampton.
With this development, both Nigerian Moshood Samusi, who had overstayed his visa, and his French bride,Â Landry Tra, were given two and a half years each.
Although both coupleÂ pleaded guilty to immigration offences at Northampton Crown Court,Â both will be deported when their sentences have been served, a statement from the British Deputy High Commission said.
TheÂ convictions, the statement added,Â bringsÂ the total combined sentences for all 12 people apprehended during Operation Sandford, which kicked off in March, to more than 26 years.
Samusi, 39, and Tra, 21, according to a statementÂ Â were arrested by officers from the UK Border Agencyâ€™s immigration crime team on 14 March while their marriage ceremony was under way in St Michaelâ€™s Church, Perry Street, Northampton.
Meanwhile, in anÂ interview Tra , according to the statement admitted that she agreed to marry Samusi for a payment of Â£3,500. Samusi of Fairmead House, Hackney, hoped that his marriage to a French national would assist his application to remain in the UK.
â€œI welcome todayâ€™s convictions which send a clear message to anyone considering breaking our immigration laws that Britain is no longer a soft touch. We now have specialist teams of immigration and police officers working day in day out to tackle and prosecute people who commit this form of organised criminality.
â€œI have tasked the UK Border Agency with carrying out an intense period of enforcement activity over the summer to tackle the most problematic routes,Â bogus colleges and organised traffickers as well as illegal working and sham marriages.
â€œWe are determined to create a hostile environment which makes it harder than ever for illegal immigrants to come to the UK and put untold pressures on our public services.â€ Damian Green, Minister for Immigration said.
Also speaking,Â Sam Bullimore, UK Border Agency assistant director, said: â€œTackling sham marriage is a top priority for us and our immigration crime teams are working hard to create a hostile environment for those who break the immigration laws.
â€œWe are working closely with registrars and the Church to identify suspect marriages. Where there is evidence to suggest that a wedding may be bogus we will investigate and, where necessary, intervene to stop it happening.
â€œPeople should be under no illusion that marriage is enough to get permission to stay in the UK. Their relationship has to be genuine. If itâ€™s not, they will face prosecution or deportation.â€
Operation Sandford has uncovered a series of sham marriages taking place at Holy Sepulchre and St Michaels churches, mainly between West Africans and EU nationals from countries including France, Portugal and Holland.
Any non-EEA foreign criminal sentenced to more than 12 months in prison for any offence automatically faces deportation action.
For one thing, theÂ UK Border Agency operates a single force to protect our borders, control migration for the benefit of the country, prevent border tax fraud, smuggling and immigration crime and make quick and fair decisions on asylum claims.
Specially trained UK Border Agency immigration officers carry out enforcement operations and arrests at businesses and private addresses, acting on intelligence received from the public and other sources.