More than 1,000 marriages in Republic confirmed as illegal

‘Brides’ believed to have left Ireland after role in sham marriages costing men €20,000

Sham marriages: the vast majority have been between Asian men and Eastern European women. They have been arranged, at a fee of up to €20,000 each, so men could secure the right to live and work in Ireland. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Sham marriages: the vast majority have been between Asian men and Eastern European women. They have been arranged, at a fee of up to €20,000 each, so men could secure the right to live and work in Ireland. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

More than 1,000 marriages between foreign men and women in the Republic have been identified by the Garda as sham marriages of convenience.

The vast majority have been between Asian men and Eastern European women. They have been arranged, at a fee of up to €20,000 each, so the men could secure the right to live and work in Ireland.

All of the “brides” are believed to have left Ireland after fulfilling their part in the illegal marriages.

Many of the “grooms” have remained and are now having their bogus marriages cancelled, their permission to remain in the State revoked and their deportations readied.

The Irish Times has learned while Garda files have been prepared on 1,200 such marriages, the major Garda investigation into the scam is continuing.

Files on each of the 1,200 confirmed sham marriages have been sent to the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Service, which has the power to revoke immigration status.

Security sources said the number of marriages confirmed as sham is likely to reach several thousand by the time the Garda inquiry, called Operation Vantage, was completed.

Operation Vantage

The most recent series of Garda raids under Operation Vantage occurred late last week when 17 addresses were targeted in co-ordinated searches in Dublin, Waterford and Limerick.

Some 24 officers from the Garda National Immigration Bureau’s Evader Track Unit arrested 13 men who had taken part in sham marriages. They were brought to Cloverhill, Limerick and Mountjoy prisons ahead of their deportations.

The arrested men – from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Mauritius – were being sought for deportation after Garda investigations and surveillance over several months confirmed their marriages were sham.

During the course of the searches for the 13 arrested men, a further 11 men with no immigration status in the Republic were discovered. They have been told to leave the State within a fortnight or be deported.

This strand of Operation Vantage has also identified 26 other men in the State illegally. Some had also engaged in sham marriages. Others were working full-time while on student visas or had otherwise breached the conditions of their visas.

Tightened legislation

The 1,200 marriages now confirmed as sham occurred prior to 2015 when legislation was tightened to clamp down on the problem. The Garda was given enhanced powers to object to planned marriages on the grounds they were believed to be sham.

Garda offices have closely monitored notices of intentions to marry, which must be submitted by all couples, to ensure sham marriages were prevented. Garda sources said they were also determined to catch those who had secured the right to live and work in Ireland by engaging in sham marriages before the clampdown of 2015.

Men from countries such as India, Pakistan, Mauritius and Bangladesh were coming to the Republic and claiming asylum. While waiting, and often having had their applications rejected, they were marrying Eastern European women. Through those marriages, facilitated by Pakistani fixers in Dublin, they were secured the right to live and work in Ireland permanently, thus sidestepping the immigration system.