State to crack down on 'sham' marriage cases
A crackdown is under way on "sham" marriages that are being used by non-EU nationals to ensure they can live here legally.
The huge growth in the number of marriages of convenience has led to the introduction of tough regulations that will allow immigration officials to extensively question newly married applicants for citizenship.
In 2001, there were 20 applications here for residence based on marriage to an EU national.
Last year the total was 2,700.
Officials have already uncovered unusual patterns of marriages. For instance, in the past year they found applications for residency based on marriage to a Latvian spouse from 116 Pakistani nationals, 13 Nigerians and 36 Indian nationals.
Up to now, immigration officials have only interviewed citizenship applications occasionally.
But at the weekend they were instructed to use EU guidelines to clamp down on the "sham" marriages by delving into the background of citizenship applicants where there are suspicions surrounding their recent marriages.
Until 2008, Ireland operated a rule that granted EU treaty rights only to non-EU nationals, who already lived lawfully in another member state.
This prevented widespread abuse of the residency rights but it was struck down by the European Court of Justice and this opened the floodgates for gangs to exploit residency rules.
Since the court ruling, the issue has been raised regularly at EU meetings by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern but Ireland needs the support of a majority of member states to tighten the rules.