Huge profits are being made by gangs organising exploitative sham marriages, according to information provided by the Garda for a new report by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI).
In one example, gardaí last November detained 11 people believed to be connected to a Dublin-based international gang which generated up to €20 million by arranging sham marriages.
The gang charged men from countries, such as Pakistan, India and Mauritius, between €10,000 and €20,000 each to marry women from eastern Europe and Portugal.
The report, compiled over two years, concludes sham marriages are an emerging form of exploitation of female victims by organised criminal groups in Ireland.
The report examined information from Irish and European sources.
“This report marks an important first step in collaboration between Government, policymakers and NGOs across Europe to identify and respond to the emerging issue of exploitative sham marriages,” said Brian Killoran, chief executive of the ICI.
The report is part of the European-wide Hestia project to prevent human trafficking for sham marriages.
Victims are typically vulnerable girls with little English and come from extremely impoverished backgrounds in eastern Europe, according to Nusha Yonkova, anti-trafficking manager with the ICI and co-author of the report.
“Common risk factors for victims were identified . . . including teenage pregnancy and a background of domestic violence, neglect, sexual abuse, and foster or institutional care at a young age.”
The report found, in all cases examined, the female victims had a connection with their recruiter, who was a family member, friend or friend of the family in the origin country.
“In many such incidents, there were strong indicators of trafficking,” said Mr Killoran.
“At the centre of this phenomenon are international criminal gangs, with sophisticated networks to transport people across borders in a very systematic way.
Co-author of the research Dr Monica O’Connor said women are closely monitored when they arrive in Ireland and often have their identity documents taken away.
She said victims are also subject to sexual assault and rape that can last weeks, months or years.
The report recommends reforming the process for identifying victims of trafficking and calls for the training of marriage registrars so they can recognise subtler forms of exploitation.