The Department of Home Affairs said it had noted a growing number of arranged marriages between undocumented nationals and South African women for transactional purposes.
Foreign nationals and the local women allegedly enter into these form of unions as part of a business arrangement.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi revealed that his department recorded more than 2 000 such cases every year.
These marriages, often referred to as “paper marriages”, are common, usually for transactional purposes and the women can be paid as little as R300, according to immigration and refugee lawyer Ashraf Essop.
“It’s called ‘paper marriages’, people usually go that route because they enter the republic illegally and need to obtain immigration status. Some of the Home Affairs officials do play a role in some cases, by colluding with the perpetrators.
Years ago I made a proposal that in any marriage there should be a record of the biometrics of the husband and the wife, that will have a direct curtailment of the fraud that is perpetrated.
The Department of Justice and the Department Home Affairs also need to work together to curtail the spread of such marriages,” he said.
Essop said in some instances the marriages were genuine.
“Some foreign nationals in local townships have actually established genuine relationships with local women. What usually gives suspicion is that South Africa is race sensitive. A Bangladeshi national marrying someone who is not the same race may be seen as not a genuine relationship,” he said.
Criminal and immigration law attorney Andre Johnston said in the cases he had dealt with, allegations of fake marriages usually surfaced in respect of Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals.
“It’s not easy to prove unless one of the parties, usually the South African, gives into pressure and spills the beans.
Both parties to the union have marital privilege, meaning they are seen as a competent but non-compellable witness.”
It is not easy to prove in a court of law. You will never know it’s a so called marriage of convenience unless someone reports the matter to Home affairs, or if an interview is conducted by an immigration official and after questioning a party, usually the wife and she tells.”
Motsoaledi said his department has implemented measures such as a biometric fingerprint system to prevent and detect fake marriages.
“We see 2 000 per annum of such marriages. We have tried to decrease it. We are using a system where you go in with your fingerprint. So there are very few Home Affairs officials who would take a chance,” he said.