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Excerpt:

He cut a smart figure in his grey suit and crisply ironed shirt. The 6ft tall Somalian bowed to the judge, calling him 'Sir', before begging for his wife, Fatima, and their teenage son to be allowed to stay in Britain.

Fatima, with a black khimar veil covering her hair and shoulders, sat quietly next to her husband.

In her late 30s and wearing open sandals, she lowered her dark eyes as the details of the unconventional life she and her husband, Abdi, led in the West London suburb of Shepherd's Bush unfolded at a busy immigration court.

The judge listened in silence. Perhaps he knew from past experience what was coming next. Abdi went on to reveal that Fatima was not his only wife.

Indeed, he was a self-confessed bigamist who had a second, much younger wife and a 13-year-old daughter by her. They both lived nearby.

'I visit them regularly,' said Abdi, 51, who arrived in Britain in the 1990s and works in an old people's home. 'I have done nothing wrong. In Somalia, it is normal to have two wives - even three or four. Fatima is still my wife and she should not be deported.'

He was unable to produce wedding certificates or valid official documents to prove where, or when, he had married both women, therefore raising questions over the validity of the unions, under either Somali or British law.

Yet his story, unravelling at an ordinary weekday hearing at Taylor House, an asylum appeals' centre in North London, is just one example of the growing phenomenon of multiple marriage in Britain.


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