Man guilty of holding two false passports

 

A PAKISTANI man (27) was yesterday convicted of possessing two false passports after being arrested as part of a Garda operation targeting alleged marriages of convenience.

Gardaí have also objected to his wedding going ahead under the Civil Registration Act. He was due to get married in Letterkenny, Co Donegal on Thursday.

Muhammad Shafi, College View Apartments, Ballymun, appeared before Judge Hugh O’Donnell at Blanchardstown District Court in Dublin.

The court heard that on December 11th last, gardaí discovered two passports during a raid on the man’s apartment. One of his passports was Hungarian and the other was Italian.

He pleaded guilty to two charges of “custody of false instruments” and was given a fine of €250.

The case was part of an operation which has been undertaken by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) to detect and prevent what they believe to be marriages of convenience for the purpose of securing EU residency rights.

The bureau is also targeting the “criminality associated with the phenomenon,” it said in a statement.

Shafi’s conviction follows a major investigation launched by immigration officers into “sham marriages” in the Republic.

These marriages are typically arranged by failed asylum seekers or former students from Asia who no longer have permission from immigration authorities to stay in Ireland.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern told his EU counterparts at a meeting in Spain at the weekend that there was evidence of growing abuse of immigration laws with a growing number of non-EU nationals marrying women from the Baltic states.

Some 110 of the 384 residency applications made by Pakistanis in the Republic in 2009 were based on marriages to Latvians.

A further 50 applications were based on marriage to Polish nationals while 47 applications were based on Pakistanis marrying Estonians.

“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, who is lobbying the EU to redraft a key piece of EU legislation – the 2004 EU directive on the freedom of movement of citizens.

The Government initiated its campaign to redraft the directive following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Metock case in 2008.

This prevented the Government from deporting the non-EU spouses of EU citizens living in Ireland. The 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 European court found in favour of the applicants seeking leave to remain.

Ireland’s EU partners have so far rebuffed the Government’s attempts to review the EU directive.