Gardaí to meet Latvians over 'sham marriages'


SENIOR MEMBERS of the Garda National Immigration Bureau will meet their Latvian counterparts early next month to bolster co- operation in the fight against “sham marriages” that circumvent Irish immigration laws.

The meeting will follow a joint operation on Monday between the two police forces to free two Latvian women who were allegedly lured to Dublin on the promise of work and then pressured to get married by two men.

The 19-year-old and 25-year-old women were locked in a bedroom in a flat in west Dublin when they refused to take part in the wedding plan.

They were able to contact their Latvian friends via a hidden mobile phone. The friends contacted the Latvian police, who contacted the Garda, who rescued the women.

A Garda spokesman said two men arrested on suspicion of imprisoning the women – a 23-year- old Indian man and a 32-year-old Pakistani man – were released without charge yesterday afternoon pending the forwarding of a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Garda has stepped up an operation targeting suspected “sham marriages” which typically involve male non-EU nationals and women from eastern Europe.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau has lodged 75 objections with marriage registrars against scheduled civil wedding ceremonies since last November. Marriage registrars must investigate each case before deciding whether to proceed with a planned civil wedding ceremony.

A judicial review initiated by a couple against marriage registrars was mentioned in the High Court yesterday. The case, which could become a test case on the Garda strategy of objecting to marriages, was adjourned for two weeks.

The Department of Justice has said large numbers of Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis are applying for residency in Ireland on the basis of marrying a citizen from another EU state to circumvent Irish immigration laws. The most common EU citizen spouses are from Latvia and Lithuania, who can provide their non-EU spouses with the right to live in other EU states.

In the first eight months of 2010, 115 of the 266 applications for residency made by Pakistanis in Ireland were based on marriages to Latvian women, according to the department.

Latvian officials recently complained that Irish authorities have been slow to react to the rapid increase in the number of “sham marriages”. Senior police and foreign affairs officials told The Irish Timesthey first alerted the Government to the problem in 2006 but little action was taken.

A Latvian government spokesman welcomed the arrests yesterday as a positive development.