New laws cracking down on sham marriages could lead to racial profiling, migrant rights groups have warned.
Registrars now have powers to investigate couples they are suspicious of and refuse to perform a marriage ceremony if they believe something is out of the ordinary.
Tougher measures will allow registrars to quiz individuals on how well they know the personal details of the person they intend to marry.
Edel McGinley, director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, questioned whether registrars would be adequately trained or experienced to carry out the role.
“This places a whole group of immigrants under suspicion the moment they go to get married. Particularly young black men are very vulnerable to ethnic profiling,” Ms McGinley told RTÉ.
“We would question the extent of this particular issue. We are very concerned around the implementation of this legislation — that it will lead to ethnic profiling, that it will impact on people’s human rights, civil rights, and, particularly, the right to privacy.
“We don’t have assurances — there are no safeguards in place in relation to this. There’s no right to appeal, so basically what registrars are being asked to do, and I think it is a very unfair thing that we are asking them to do, is to interrogate people who are presenting to be married.
“We are asking them to investigate and ask questions around how long they know each other, how many meetings they might have had. So we are asking them to adjudicate on these matters.”
Ms McGinley said she was unclear about what role registrars were intended to play in helping stop the trafficking of women to Ireland from eastern Europe in order to be used in marriages of convenience.
“In order for a registrar to be able to alert something like that you need comprehensive training,” she said.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the new legislation was needed to combat the trafficking of women. Ms Fitzgerald said the Government had acted due to a rise in allegations of sham marriages in recent years.
Registrars will look at a range of evidence when considering whether to go ahead with a wedding, including whether the couple speak a common language, how long they have known each other, if they live together, how well they know details about each other’s lives, and their immigration status.
The registrars will also be able to inquire as to whether money has been paid for the arrangement, other than a dowry if that is a custom in one of the participant’s culture.
In 2013 the Council of Europe asked Ireland to amend the law to include sham marriages as a form of exploitation and give gardaí powers to intervene in such cases.
It was estimated that 400 women were being trafficked into Ireland to take part in such ceremonies. Many of these came from Latvia, which complained about the situation under Irish law.
If registrars form the opinion that the proposed marriage is a sham, they are expected to inform the Departments of Justice or Social Protection.
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