Monday 24 October 2016

Couples with non-EU citizen face wedding delays due to row on 'sham marriage' laws

Some marriages face delays
Some marriages face delays

Couples which include people from outside the EU are being prevented from getting married because of an industrial dispute involving civil registrars.

Under new laws aimed at targeting 'sham marriages', couples must be interviewed by registrars as part of a series of tests to ensure the relationship is legitimate.

However, due to a lack of consultation before the rules were brought in, these interviews have not been taking place.

It comes as gardai revealed details of a crackdown on marriages of convenience that saw 42 searches conducted earlier this week and 11 people arrested. The raids were part of Operation Vantage, which has identified a number of criminal networks based in Ireland and Britain who are engaged in facilitating sham marriages that exploit the asylum and immigration systems.

The Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 came into effect in August and gave registrars responsibility for investigating marriages involving non-EU citizens.

But registrars, who are employed by the HSE, have refused to do this, saying they have been provided with no training.

Impact trade union spokesman Niall Shanahan told the Herald: "Developments this week, linking criminal activity to arranged 'sham' marriages, have shown that our members' concerns were very real.


"In other jurisdictions, this work is usually undertaken by immigration and/or law enforcement agencies."

Talks are ongoing to try to resolve the situation and Mr Shanahan said they are actively trying to resolve the issues.

In a brief statement, the HSE said: "The HSE is currently involved in positive talks with Impact and it hoped that progress can be made in the coming weeks." It is not known how many marriages have been delayed but Roscommon TD Denis Naughten said he is aware of constituents affected.

He has asked Tánaiste Joan Burton to intervene.

"In the same month that same-sex couples were given the right to marry for the first time, both same-sex and opposite-sex couples wishing to marry, where one partner is from outside the EU, are having their Constitutional right denied to them.

"This is just not good enough and if a solution cannot be found, then the regulation needs to be changed to allow another competent person to perform the interviews pending a resolution of this dispute," Mr Naughten said.

As part of Operation Vantage, gardai have seized a large amount of computers, memory devices, phones and documents including false identity documents, driving licences and marriage certificates.

A stun gun and quantities of approximately €30,000 in cash have also been seized.

Through the operation, 55 formal objections to pending marriages have been made.

And a further 30 marriages between EU/non-EU nationals have not proceeded as both parties failed to show up following garda enquires.

Investigations suggest a significant number of non-EU nationals who have already obtained Irish/EU residency rights based on marriages of convenience.

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