Marriages of 200 non-EU men under investigation
GARDAI suspect bogus companies are being set up to provide fake employment credentials for eastern European women who are brought to Ireland to take part in arranged marriages. A number of companies are under investigation after gardai came across them during an operation aimed at clamping down on arranged marriages.
The emergence of the racket provides further evidence that organised gangs are "selling" brides who are citizens of the European Union to non-European men, so they can secure residency in Ireland through marriage.
The women are typically recruited in poorer eastern bloc countries and are offered money to come to Ireland to marry failed asylum seekers or former students from Asia whose visas have run out, according to garda sources.
The 'brokers' list the women as employees of bogus companies in order to satisfy a legal requirement that the Europeans must have been employed in the country in which they are getting married. Gardai have found evidence that 'brokers' can charge up to €10,000 for a bride while the women themselves, often impoverished, are typically paid a couple of thousand euro.
Disturbingly, gardai have uncovered "a handful" of cases in which 'brides' have claimed they were enticed to Ireland under false pretenses.
One investigation is under way into allegations by an eastern European woman who has told gardai that she came to Ireland in the belief she was getting a job, but was falsely imprisoned so that she could be coerced into an arranged marriage.
More than 200 marriages between non-European men and eastern European women are being investigated by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Marriages of convenience are not illegal. Gardai, often acting on a tip-off, investigate those involved for bigamy, on immigration issues and also whether the bride has been employed in the country for the required period as set out in the EU Treaty.
A number of non-European men have also been arrested for bigamy.
A 27-year-old Pakistani man was convicted earlier this year of having two false passports, which were discovered shortly before he was to marry a Latvian woman.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said last month that at least 480 marriage applications for residency were made by men from Pakistan who had married Latvian, Polish and Estonian women.
The proliferation in arranged marriages in Ireland has been linked to a European Court of Justice ruling two years ago. In the past, the Department of Justice refused to issue residency permits to married couples unless they could prove they had lived together elsewhere in the EU.
The law was successfully challenged in 2008, forcing the Government to relax the tight marriage rules.