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Sunday 23 October 2016

Clampdown to combat sham marriages and tighten border controls

Published 19/08/2015 | 02:30

Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice speaks at the launch of the Courts Service Annual report. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent 13/7/2015
Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice speaks at the launch of the Courts Service Annual report. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent 13/7/2015

More than 40 bogus asylum seekers have been turned back at the Border in a series of joint operations involving immigration authorities.

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The clampdown on immigration abuse is being stepped up, as new Government measures to tackle sham marriages are put into action.

Officers from the Garda national immigration bureau played a key role in the Border operations, which were carried out in close co-operation with the immigration authorities in the UK. They blocked several attempts by bogus asylum seekers to enter the Republic.

Meanwhile, marriage registrars were officially handed wide-ranging powers yesterday, to crack down on widespread abuses by non-EU nationals to secure immigration status.

Immigration officials are particularly worried over emerging patterns showing growing numbers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi men marrying eastern European and Portuguese women.

Both Tánaiste Joan Burton and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald have expressed their concerns at abuses of the process by non-EU nationals, seeking to enter what are known as marriages of convenience.

New measures are contained in the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act, which allows registrars to investigate if those involved in a proposed marriage speak a common language, inquire into the number of meetings the couple have had, if they have lived together in the past or if they currently live together.

More than 300 applications for a marriage licence involving non-EU and EU nationals have been received in the past six months.

Officials point out that some of those applications are legitimate - but say they are disturbed at the growth in the number of suspected sham marriages.

The Irish Independent disclosed earlier this month that the new powers were about to be enacted, after marriage registrars nationwide were briefed on the measures by the registrar general of the General Register Office, Kieran Feely.

Ms Fitzgerald said yesterday that, in addition to EU free movement, the right to marry in Ireland was also protected by the Constitution.

"The reality, though, is that in some cases these rights are abused. The abuse of the institution of marriage, for immigration purposes, cannot and will not be tolerated.

"Women are exploited in such arrangements and even if money changes hands, there is obviously scope for coercion and intimidation."

She said she was deeply concerned that some women might be trafficked to Ireland with a view to being forced into sham marriages.

The Tánaiste said the new measures made it more difficult to broker sham marriages in the State.

The total number of asylum applications this year up to the end of July exceeded 1,700 - more than double the number for the same period last year.

The annual total for 2014 was 1,448 applications, while there were 946 in 2013.

Irish Independent

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