Ahern tells EU partners residency laws must be reviewed

Mon, Jan 25, 2010, 00:00

THE GOVERNMENT has told its European partners that EU residency laws need to be reviewed to combat the growing number of “sham marriages” between EU citizens and third country nationals.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern published new statistics yesterday showing 384 applications for residency made by Pakistani nationals in 2009 were based on marriages to Latvian nationals.

A further 50 residency applications were based on Pakistani’s marrying Polish nationals and 47 on Pakistani’s marrying Estonians.

“There is a growing evidence of abuse of EU immigration laws and Ireland’s experience is that the love affair between Pakistan and Baltic states shows no signs of abating,” Mr Ahern told his EU counterparts at a weekend meeting of EU justice ministers in Toledo, Spain.

He said in general the Pakistani spouses tend to be students or former students with no immigration permission. He said there was also a problem with failed Nigerian asylum seekers making residency applications based on “sham marriages” to EU citizens.

Some 69 out of the 238 applications for residency made by Nigerians in 2009 were based on marriage to a British citizen, 24 on marriage to a German citizen and 22 on marriage to a Polish citizen.

“We estimate that 30 per cent of all our applications for recognition under the EU directive on freedom of movement and residency involve persons who were illegally present in Ireland or on a temporary or limited permission when making their applications,” said Mr Ahern.

The Government has been lobbying its European partners for reform of the EU directive on free movement since it lost the Metock case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2008.

This test case was taken by four married couples living in Ireland who faced deportation. In each case the four EU citizens married asylum seekers, whose request for leave to remain in the Republic was subsequently rejected by the Minister for Justice. The Government argued unsuccessfully that it should be allowed to deport non-EU spouses who had not lived in another EU state prior to arriving in Ireland, to combat “marriages of convenience”.

The ECJ found in favour of the applicants seeking leave to remain.

Siobhán O’Donoghue, director of the Migrant Rights Centre, said there was a danger the Minister’s comments on “sham marriages” would throw an “air of suspicion” on legitimate marriages.