Fall in number of sham marriages

There has been a dramatic fall in so-called sham marriages due to a crackdown incorporating gardaí and civic registrars.

New figures from An Garda Síochána show 450 marriages of convenience were halted over the past two years.

However, one renowned solicitor claimed some registrars were being “over-zealous” in applying existing regulations, while some couples intending to marry are being put off from doing so by a mistaken belief that the right to marry depends on their migration status.

Since Operation Vantage was established on August 10, 2015, registrars can flag any doubts about potential marriages in advance. Since August 2015, there have been more than 250 objections to marriages raised by registrars.

Gardaí said another 80 marriages had been cancelled by the parties involved following enquiries and investigation by Operation Vantage. Alongside further “no shows” on the ceremony date, it means that in excess of 450 marriages have not been completed since Operation Vantage got underway.

A Garda spokesman said: “Operation Vantage has supported the marriage registrars in compiling a large number of marriage objections. Operation Vantage also supports interview training and investigative techniques to the registrars.

“A number of international investigations are also under way in the EU and are led by Operation Vantage.”

Another effect of the crackdown has been a fall in the number of notifications of intention to marry between EU and non-EU citizens. Figures provided by gardaí showed that 1,468 such notifications were received in 2015, but last year a total of 694 notifications were received — a drop of 53%.

According to gardaí, levels have continued to fall in 2017 with 345 notifications recorded in January to September 2017, compared to 580 during the same period of 2016 — a drop of 41%.

However, solicitor Wendy Lyon of KOD Lyons said some legitimate unions were at risk of not going ahead because of how the laws were being applied.

“The new law is being interpreted wrongly in some registrar’s offices,” she said. “Some people are being told if they are not lawfully in the country they cannot get married — that is not true.”

Ms Lyon said regardless of an individual’s migration status, once they proved that status, they were entitled to seek to get married, even if they were undocumented.

“Some people don’t realise that they even have a right to marry,” she said, adding that this was likely to be a “genuine misunderstanding” on the part of registrars.

However, she was familiar with a case where a couple were informed by a letter from a registrar that they believed the marriage was a sham union, with no reason offered, even after being asked to provide one.

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