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Latvia blames Ireland for its Citizens taking part in sham marriages for money | Immigration Matters

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Every year hundreds of Latvian women, desperate to escape poverty, take part in sham marriages in the Irish Republic with Asian men seeking EU residency rights.

The BBC reports that the Latvian government is calling on the Irish authorities to clamp down on the scam.

Next to Riga’s Old Town, there is a picturesque bridge covered in hundreds of locks.

The locks are engraved with hearts and the names of newlyweds, who come here to throw away the key in the river below for good luck.

Human traffickers

For Anna, 19, whom we have arranged to meet on the bridge, these locks bring back memories of a more dangerous type of wedding.

Anna is not her real name as she fears retribution from human traffickers.

A year ago, she and her mother were both trying to survive on around 300 Euros a month.

A friend suggested contacts in the Irish Republic who could help find a job. And the friend gave Anna a plane ticket.

When she arrived, however, the work was not what she expected.

“Two Pakistani men met me and took me to a house where I saw a man I was told I was to marry. I was scared,” she said.

She was kept locked up in a room for two days before she managed to escape by emailing a Latvian journalist who called the police.

Anna was lucky. Latvian police say other women who refuse to go through with a sham marriage have been physically or sexually abused.

Other women, stranded and penniless, feel they have no choice but to go through with the wedding.

Social networking

Many of the women are recruited online on Latvian social networking sites, often through what look like job ads.

But usually the only details given are that young women under 30 are needed, and that free accommodation is provided in Ireland for six months – exactly the amount of time it takes to register a new marriage.

Some women only find out about the sham marriage when they arrive in Ireland.

The marriages are conducted there because it is not illegal in the Irish Republic to marry in return for money.

According to Latvia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, this anomaly is a throwback to a centuries-old Irish tradition of the bride’s wedding dowry.

Fake ads

Latvian journalist Aleksandra Jolkina, who’s writing a book on the issue, actively went looking for a sham marriage.

She posted fake ads online, saying she was looking for a job abroad.

Within hours she received proposals of marriage in the Irish Republic: all from men from the Indian subcontinent, offering to pay her up to 2,000 Euros.

“After I said ‘yes I agree’, I was provided with tickets to Dublin in a couple of days,” she explained.

“They said it’s a unique opportunity… and that it’s a possibility to earn money and to get a job in Ireland.”

But the women do not always realise the dangers of abuse.

And when they come back to Latvia, obtaining a divorce can be difficult.

Psychological damage

To warn young women of the risks, Latvian charity Shelter Safe House is now launching a nationwide campaign.

According to the charity’s director, Sandra Zalcmane, potential brides are recruited not only online but also sometimes by friends or family, so the psychological damage can be long-lasting.

“Usually if someone has been betrayed in this way by those close to them, they find it hard to trust anyone ever again,” she said.

Latvian police estimate that last year up to 400 Latvian women took part in sham marriages with Asian men in Ireland.

Even if the marriages are found to be fake, Irish law does not recognise them as victims of human trafficking because the women travelled voluntarily.

This means that the men involved cannot be prosecuted unless other criminal acts are committed.

Latvian police say they are frustrated and want the Irish authorities to check if all marriages with non-EU citizens are genuine. They are also calling for sham marriages to be outlawed.

But according to Irish police spokesman Sergeant Jim Molloy, all suspected cases of marriage in return for EU residency rights are fully investigated.

False imprisonment

Over the past few months, Irish police have intervened in almost 100 such incidents.

The most recent was on October 25th, when police rescued two Latvian women, aged 19 and 25, from a house in Dublin.

Two men are now facing charges of false imprisonment.

Anna, meanwhile, is now studying back in Latvia.

“I want to study and get a good job, so I think it’s still possible to make a success of my life.”

But with unemployment rates in Latvia among the highest in Europe, other young women are still being lured into fake marriages by the promise of a better life elsewhere. Source: BBC

As members of the EU, Latvian citizens are free to live and work in any member state and, therefore, do not need to take part in sham marriages or other criminal activities.

Ireland appears to have been singled out by organized gangs as a ‘soft touch’ for those wishing to obtain EU residency through marriage.

But the problem is not unique to Ireland. Every week the UK Border agency publishes details of arrests in connection with sham marriages.

Last month four people were arrested this week as part of an investigation into a suspected sham marriage operation in Reading.

Acting on intelligence, officers from the Agency’s Thames Valley immigration crime team swooped on Reading register office at around 14:00, just as the service was about to start.

The would-be bride, a 25-year-old Polish national, and her groom, a 22-year-old Pakistani man were both arrested on suspicion of perjury, a serious crime.

Two witnesses, both Polish men were also arrested on suspicion of assisting illegal immigration. All 4 are now being questioned by police and by immigration officers.

In September a Church of England vicar involved in carrying out hundreds of fake marriages to bypass immigration law was jailed for four years.

See also:

More sham marriage arrests

Sham marriage vicar jailed for four years

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6 Responses to “Latvia blames Ireland for its Citizens taking part in sham marriages for money”
Read them below or add one

  1. […] Latvia blames Ireland for its Citizens taking part in sham marriages for money […]

  2. […] Latvian citizen Iljina was arrested at a house in Alexander Road, Peterborough, where she was found in bed with a man who was not her husband-to-be. […]

  3. The source of the Latvian Sham Marriage article was clearly stated as the BBC
    Latvia calls on Ireland to tackle sham marriages By Damien McGuinness.
    See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11792437
    Suggest you take up your query with the BBC.

  4. […] Latvia blames Ireland for its Citizens taking part in sham marriages for money […]

  5. Don Brennock says :

    I am really surprised that you do not appear to have checked with reliable sources for the content of your patched-together article. To just establish a few FACTS; each year hundreds of Latvian women DO NOT take part in sham marriages in Ireland. Each year hundreds of ‘doubtful’ marriages are investigated in Ireland to try and establish their veracity. If EU citizens allow themselves, because of poverty or otherwise, to be used to provide illegal entry to the EU (because of EU Treaty rights)then the matter is one primarily of personal irresponsibility or criminality by those concerned.
    Please explain how someone locked in a room for two days suddenly remembers to e-mail a friend for assistance.
    It does NOT take six months to register a marriage in Ireland.
    Just as the UK Border Agency and police in UK do their best to prevent and control illegal immigration and other such criminal activity so do the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Police in Ireland. This tabloid-style article does you and your company no credit at all and I am quite amazed that you would drop your usual professional standards to take such a cheap shot at any professional service in this manner.

  6. J.C GROHE says :

    To Who It May Concern

    I have just log an assylum claim, and I need to help could you be willing to advise or be my reprentative?

    Thank you

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