Minister says law to tackle 'sham marriages' on way


LEGISLATION designed to curb “sham marriages” that are intended to circumvent immigration law will be published shortly by the Government, the Minister for Justice has said.

At a meeting of EU justice ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, Alan Shatter warned there was evidence that EU rules guaranteeing free movement for citizens were being abused by third-country nationals marrying EU citizens.

He said “highly unusual patterns of marriage” between Latvians and nationals of Pakistan, and to a lesser extent nationals of Ukraine and India, had been detected in Ireland.

He said there were almost 400 applications for residence in Ireland based on marriage to Latvians by non-EU nationals last year. Some 173 applications were made by Pakistani nationals, 33 by Ukrainians and 53 by Indians.

Under an EU directive, which was given effect in the Republic in 2006, the non-EU spouses and family members of EU citizens have the right to live in Ireland and travel freely within the union.

There were 1,894 applications for residency from non-EU nationals based on marriage to an EU citizen in 2010.

Government efforts to crack down on sham marriages have been hindered due to a lack of legislation making it illegal to marry purely to circumvent immigration law. A landmark ruling in the High Court in February ruled that the Garda had no power to prevent non-EU citizens from entering marriages of convenience for immigration purposes.

At least 28 of 150 marriages to which the Garda had objected have since been registered by registrars.

Mr Shatter told his EU counterparts he has asked his officials to draft new legislation that dealt with immigration-related marriages of convenience and sham marriages. There was no “silver bullet” to deal with the problem, but he would be bringing forward proposals when he introduced the Immigration Protection Bill.

Mr Shatter said co-operation between gardaí, marriage registrars and his department had been stepped up. He said his concerns about the marriages were echoed at the meeting in Luxembourg by British home secretary Theresa May.