Garda operation targets 'sham' marriages, 11 arrests made
The Gardai conducted a number of searches today in an operation aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration and sham marriages.
Operation Vantage saw over 200 Garda deployed in locations all over Ireland, with 42 premises searched and 11 people arrested.
Homes and businesses in a number of counties were targetted in the operation and as well as the arrests, a number of items were seized including a stun gun and over €30,000 in cash.
Premises in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Longford, Louth, Cork, Limerick, and Mayo were searched.
According to Gardai an increased number of new notifications of intention to marry has come from males from the Indian sub-continent (i.e. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh) who wish to marry females from EU countries, particularly Portugal and Eastern European countries.
The gardai have identified a number of criminal networks based in Ireland and the UK who are engaged in the facilitation of these marriages through the provision of false information and documentation to Marriage Registrars, thus exploiting the asylum and immigration system.
These criminal elements are reported to be making large profits by organising residency status for non-EU nationals through these marriages of convenience.
New legislation - the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 - enacted on the August this year provides new powers to a Registrar of Marriages to consider whether a marriage is one of convenience, i.e. a marriage where at least one of the parties to the marriage is at the time of entry into the marriage is a foreign national, and enters into the marriage solely for the purpose of securing an immigration advantage for at least one of the parties to the marriage.
As a result of this legislation 55 formal objections to pending marriages have been made through Operation Vantage and 22 people have been arrested and charged for offences under Section 69(3) of the Civil Registration Act 2004 – provision of false information to the Registrar – and Section 29 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001 – custody or control of a false instrument.
A further 30 marriages between EU/non-EU nationals have not proceeded as both parties failed to show following Garda enquires.
Investigations to date suggest that a significant number of non-EU nationals have been identified who have already obtained Irish/EU residency rights based on marriages of convenience or other false information provided in support of their residency applications.
A number of such cases have been reported to the Department of Justice through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) for review of their residency status and revocation.
Operation Vantage has also uncovered a number of people subject to deportation orders attempting to avail of a marriage of convenience. In addition 2 convicted non-EU national sex offenders were also attempting to register to marry. Both of these have since been arrested.