Five are deported in sham marriage operation
A GARDA investigation into sham marriages for the purpose of gaining residency has led to the deportations of at least five people, the Irish Independent has learnt.
Many more deportations could follow as a result of Operation Charity, an ongoing Garda National Immigration Bureau investigation aimed at tackling so-called marriages of convenience.
The operation was set up last year to prevent and detect criminality associated with marriages between EU and non-EU nationals for the purpose of gaining residency in Ireland.
The move came following reports that Nigerian, Indian and Pakistani gangs were offering to provide EU brides for fees of up to €10,000.
Latvian police also informed gardai last year of evidence that many young women were travelling from that country to Ireland to be paid to take part in sham marriages.
At least five people have been arrested and deported as a result of the operation, after making attempts to evade their removal from the State.
Several more people have been arrested over allegations of bigamy and possession of false documents.
The revelation comes as new figures released yesterday revealed that more than 2,000 people from outside the EU applied for residency in Ireland last year on the basis of marriage to an EU citizen.
Almost 1,200 applications had also been made up to the end of June this year on the same basis.
Of these, some 253 related to Pakistanis who have married EU citizens. Their spouses included 95 Latvians, 41 British, 25 Lithuanians, 18 Polish and 17 Estonians.
Some 167 applications were made by Nigerians on the basis of marriage to EU citizens in the same period. The spouses included 35 British, 25 Polish, 20 Dutch, 13 Germans and 13 Latvians.
Meanwhile, 78 Indians made similar applications based on marriage to EU citizens. The spouses included 27 Latvian and 20 Polish nationals.
While it is not illegal to take part in a sham marriage for residency purposes, gardai can stop marriages through arrests, prosecutions and deportation for other immigration offences.
Last night Labour TD Roisin Shortall called for marriage registrars to be given more powers to act if they suspect they are being asked to solemnise a bogus marriage.
"I believe that registrars should be allowed greater powers to satisfy themselves that the marriage application is genuine," she said.
"They should also have the power to delay marriages they believe to be suspect and in extreme cases be allowed to refuse to conduct a ceremony, subject to a right of appeal for the parties involved," she added.