Abuja — A Nigerian man and a French woman have been sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment by a London court after pleading guilty to immigration offences through sham marriage.
This brings to six the number of Nigerians that have been convicted since Operation Sandford, which prescribes a clampdown on illegal immigrants, started in the United Kingdom in March this year.
A statement signed by the Regional Press officer, East, of the UK Border Agency, Toby Allanson, which was made available to THISDAY by the British High Commission in Abuja yesterday, said the duo were arrested while their marriage ceremony was under way in St Michael's Church, Perry Street, Northampton.
The statement added that the Nigerian man, Moshood Sanusi, and his French bride, Landry Tra, would be deported at the end of their jail terms.
Tra had admitted to agreeing to marry Sanusi, who had overstayed his visa, after he had paid her 3,500 pounds. He had hoped his marriage to a French citizen would help his application to remain in the country.
According to the statement, Operation Sandford has uncovered a series of sham marriages taking place at Holy Sepulchre and St Michaels' churches mainly between West Africans and European Union nationals from countries including France , Portugal and Holland . 12 convictions have been secured so far.
The UK Border Agency reiterated its commitment to creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants to the UK.
It disclosed that it was working with registers and churches to identify sham marriages.
"People should be under no illusion that marriage is enough to get permission to stay in the UK . Their relationship has to be genuine. If it's not, they will face prosecution or deportation."