Couple go to High Court with 'sham marriage' decision


A COUPLE who have had their wedding ceremony blocked by marriage registrars over suspicions it may be a “sham” are challenging the decision in the High Court.

The couple lodged a judicial review in July in what is likely to become a test case for Government efforts to tackle marriages of convenience. The case is up for mention next week.

The proposed wedding was blocked following a complaint lodged by the Garda. It suspects the marriage may have been arranged to circumvent the State’s immigration laws.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau has objected to 57 proposed weddings as part of its ongoing “Operation Charity” investigation into “sham marriages”. Registrars are obliged to launch an investigation into each proposed wedding when a complaint is lodged, although it remains unclear how much power they have to block the marriages.

The Garda have stepped up efforts to tackle sham marriages over the past year following a significant increase in the number of eastern European women travelling to Ireland to marry non-EU nationals.

The marriage scams are typically organised by men from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and some African states, who are seeking residency in Ireland. They recruit women from EU states in eastern Europe for marriages, usually offering them up to €3,000.

Last week the Government issued guidelines to marriage registrars in an effort to tackle sham marriages.

They introduced identification requirements for all people getting married, restrictions on the use of interpreters and the number of people who can be admitted to a registrar’s office.

The move follows intense lobbying by several EU countries, who have raised concerns about the abuse of their citizens in Ireland following “sham marriages” conducted to circumvent Irish immigration laws. Latvia has criticised the Government’s response to the problem, saying “the feedback from competent Irish authorities is minimal”.

The Department of Justice has rejected the criticism. It said yesterday it is continuing to monitor the movements of men from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who were coming to Ireland and attempting to marry women from eastern Europe. A team of senior gardaí will travel to Latvia in the coming weeks to liaise with their counterparts there on tackling suspected “sham marriages”, said the department.

The Latvian ministry of foreign affairs said yesterday that it welcomed the new guidelines to marriage registrars and highly valued every effort made by Irish institutions to tackle marriages of convenience. But it added that new legislation was needed.

“The amended Guidelines for Registrars for Marriage Notifications is a good step forward to improve the situation and, understanding that certain amendments should be made in the Irish legislation, Latvia is open for further co-operation and discussion on the marriage of convenience matter,” said the Latvian ministry for foreign affairs.

A “marriage of convenience” for money or to circumvent Irish immigration law is not illegal in Ireland. Neither is it possible to prevent someone getting married because they are illegally resident in the State, which makes efforts to block the scam difficult.