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Sunday 23 October 2016

Foreign couples will be quizzed on relationship to identify sham marriages

Published 04/08/2015 | 02:30

New clampdown: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
New clampdown: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Foreign couples will be asked if they are living together before getting married as part of an immigration clampdown.

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Marriage registrars are to be handed wide-ranging powers to crack down on widespread abuses by non-EU nationals to secure immigration status.

The Government is increasingly worried at the growth in the number of sham marriages involving asylum seekers and European citizens.

Now fresh legislation will allow the registrars to gauge whether a proposed marriage is a sham and alert the immigration authorities.

Registrars will be able to:

Investigate if those involved in a proposed marriage speak a common language.

Inquire into the number of meetings the couple have had.

Ask about whether they have lived together in the past or if they currently live together.

Determine how familiar each person is with the personal details of the other party and examine if there are immigration-related motives for the marriage.

Immigration officials said the legislation would be a key measure in targeting abuses of EU free movement rights. They have identified what they believe to be unusual surges of movement within the common travel area and say a pattern has emerged where single, male Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals, who have previously been living in the UK, have arrived in Ireland to claim asylum. The authorities fear that many of them are using their time here, while their asylum claim is being processed, to find a European citizen to marry.

The total number of asylum applications so far this year has exceeded 1,700 - more than double the number for the corresponding period last year.

The increase is particularly stark in the numbers from Pakistan and Bangladesh, with more than 800 applications received from Pakistani nationals, compared with just 91 for the first seven months of 2014. A similar pattern has emerged for Bangladesh, with more than 150 applications received.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton are working closely with the Registrar General Kevin Feely on the implementation of the new legislation.

Ms Burton told the Irish Independent last night that the new rules would hamper attempts to broker so-called sham marriages in the State.

Irish Independent

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