Thursday, October 28, 2010

FG calls for law against sham marriages

FINE GAEL have called for a specific criminal offence to end sham marriages after gardaí freed two Latvian women who were being held against their will and pressurised into marriage. 

Gardaí suspect the women, aged 19 and 25, were being ordered to marry two Asian men.

This would enable the men — from India and Pakistan — to get a Latvian passport, which would allow them to travel, live and work throughout the EU.

Gardaí have a dedicated operation aimed at combating the growing problem and have objected in the courts to up to 70 suspect marriages so far this year.

Of the 70, 16 people have been arrested on various alleged offences to do with fraudulent unions.

In the most recent incident, two Latvian women arrived in the country on Friday and were taken to an apartment in Palmerstown, west Dublin.

They were promised work in the country by traffickers, but over the weekend their keepers turned on them and said they would have to marry two Asian men.

When they refused they were locked in a bedroom, but one of them had a mobile phone concealed on her. 

On Sunday, she managed to raise the alarm by texting some friends in Latvia, who contacted the police there.

The Latvian police alerted gardaí and within two hours of the alarm going out, detectives from the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) raided the apartment and freed the women.

The main suspected trafficker, a 23-year-old from India, was arrested at the flat as well as a 32-year-old Pakistani national.

The Indian national is believed to be here on a student visa and has a conviction for an immigration offence. The two were detained under Section Four of the Criminal Justice Act.

Fine Gael’s justice spokes- man Alan Shatter said: "The gardaí are to be congratulated for recent successes in trying to prevent sham marriages. However, more needs to be done. Our criminal law in this area is seriously deficient.

"Fine Gael will propose in the Dáil next week that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 be amended to render it a specific criminal offence to voluntarily participate in a sham marriage or to arrange, or conspire to arrange, for the celebration of any such marriage."

Last August, a senior superintendent registrar with the HSE had expressed concerns that between 10% and 15% of civil marriage ceremonies may be marriages of convenience.

The GNIB said they had stepped in to prevent 57 bogus marriages and that many of the suspect marriages involved Latvian women and Pakistani men.


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