Friday 24 November 2017

Latvian woman in marriage scam claims she was raped

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A YOUNG Latvian woman has told gardai that she was raped and sexually assaulted by men who lured her to Ireland to take part in an arranged marriage.

The woman claimed that she was used for sex by a group of Asian men who moved her between different houses in Waterford and the Cork towns of Midleton and Cobh. She was poorly fed, intimidated and left without any money.

While the woman was not held captive, she was fearful of running away as she did not speak English and had nowhere to go. She eventually confided in a local person who brought her to Dungarvan garda station earlier this year, before the marriage took place.

The woman's allegations have triggered two high-level investigations.

A joint inquiry is under way in Cork and Waterford into alleged sexual slavery while the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) is examining the exploitation of women to take part in bogus marriages.

At least three men have been arrested and a file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions within weeks.

The case is one of five under investigation by the immigration bureau in which women from eastern Europe were allegedly trafficked to Ireland to take part in bogus marriages and ended up being abused.

"People coming to the country have been promised employment and once here they end up pushed into arranged marriages," said a senior source. "There are five to six cases of women who may have been trafficked, with individuals from different nationalities involved.

"The scenario involves a woman who is brought to a house, and discovers that she is not free to leave. In the worst cases, there are allegations of physical assault. They are forced into getting married."

Asian and African gangs were reported to be offering women from poorer eastern European countries up to €10,000 to take part in sham marriages in Ireland. However, in most cases, the women get nothing close to that, say investigators. Of the women who knowingly come to Ireland to take part in arranged marriages, many are impoverished and receive nothing more than free transit to Ireland and a place to stay.

The rise in sham marriages in recent years has been linked to an EU ruling that gives non-EU citizens who are married to EU citizens certain residency rights. Justice officials have seen a rise in the numbers of Asian men marrying eastern European women, and using the marriage to apply for residency permits to stay in Ireland.

The GNIB, led by Chief Superintendent John O'Driscoll, responded with Operation Charity, which was launched last year.

Chief Supt O'Driscoll has said that at least 200 sham marriages are under investigation. At least five people have been deported and others could follow.

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, according to figures released earlier this month. Marriage registers have also reported a rapid increase in the numbers of sham marriages with one superintendent register claiming that up to 15 per cent of civil marriages in Ireland may be bogus.

Registrars have claimed that, in a typical bogus ceremony, the bride and groom would not know or understand each other, and would have no friends present.

Sunday Independent

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