Wednesday 13 December 2017

Andrew Lynch: How many more were never rescued?

It sounds like something from a lurid TV crime drama.

Two vulnerable young Latvian women are lured to Ireland with the promise of a good job and a better life.

Instead they are held hostage in a flat and told they must marry a couple of Asian immigrants who are desperate to get their hands on an EU passport.

This is the chilling scenario that is unfolding in the aftermath of a garda raid on a Palmerston apartment.


The two women managed to organise their rescue by texting their relatives back home, who in turn contacted the Garda National Immigration Bureau.

If their captors had taken a basic precaution of confiscating their mobile phones, the chances are that they would still be locked up and their kidnappers' criminal scheme might well have succeeded. Nobody should fool themselves into thinking that this might be an isolated case.

Gardai have been monitoring the chief suspect's activities for some time and believe that he has already organised several sham marriages for payment in Ireland.

He is in this country on a student visa and already has a conviction here for an immigration offence.

Last August, Dennis Prior, the superintendent registrar for the HSE eastern registration area, revealed the disturbing fact that up to 15pc of all Irish civil marriage ceremonies are suspected to be bogus.

In some cases, the sham is so transparent that the bride and groom need an interpreter in order to understand each other.


The problem lies in a European directive that came into effect here in 2006, giving non-EU spouses and family members of EU citizens the right to travel freely within the union.

Until now, it was assumed that the brides involved were at least receiving some money for signing up to the fraud, even if it was often for as little as €3,000.

This latest incident, however, suggests that something even more sinister is going on.

The men who organise these fake unions are apparently so ruthless that they are prepared to resort to kidnapping -- and the really scary thing is that there may already have been cases that we know nothing about.

This shocking incident proves yet again that the human trafficking phenomenon, which is commonly associated with Africa and Asia, has reached our shores with a vengeance.

In some cases it is designed to produce slave labour, in others prostitution.

Passport fraud is just another way for ruthless crime lords to exploit innocent young women -- and the worst of it is that in some cases the law is actually on their side.


As the horrifying details of the Palmerston kidnapping continue to emerge, the legal process will take care of the people involved.

Already, however, it should be clear that that our current laws are completely inadequate to deal with the wider problem.

The Government must lobby Brussels for a complete rethink of the system that automatically gives travel rights to the spouses of EU citizens -- because, however well-intentioned, the consequences are turning out to be horrific.

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