Immigration officials have been stumped by scamming cricket teams from the Middle East who arrange matches but go on the run rather than play, it emerged today.
The Department of Justice said in the last year two teams, with players mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, caught out border control after they came to compete but never turned up for the innings.
Justice chiefs warned it has become a growing trafficking trend.
“They were genuine cricket teams and it was a genuine cricket competition they were travelling over to Ireland for,” a spokesman for the Department said.
“There was a legitimate competition and the teams were let in.
“But when they got into the State they never turned up for the matches ... and some of them were then located subsequently in Britain.”
Immigration officials said they believed a trend was developing after several teams applied to enter the State from the Middle East with one or two members of each party having a good travel history.
Once here legally, some players claimed asylum or disappeared.
The Department said on one occasion 10 team members were stopped as they tried to travel on to the UK without having to use a passport as Ireland and Britain share a common travel area. They later claimed asylum.
Immigration chiefs believe a Pakistani showjumping team also duped border control.
The Department could not give the precise details of the competitions but claimed the teams had been registered to play.
However, Cricket Ireland, the body overseeing the sport across the island, said they had never heard of such attempted immigration scams or vanishing cricket teams.
Spokesman Barry Chambers said: “This is the first I’ve heard of this.”
Mr Chambers said cricketers coming over to Ireland to play for Irish clubs have to go through a strict process.
“The only cricketers that come in are from Pakistan and India and they have to go through a pretty rigorous application process.
“They just can’t roll up and start playing cricket.”
Meanwhile, the Department also said there were growing numbers of foreign nationals legally in the State claiming child benefit for kids living outside the country.
The majority of cases involve Chinese people.
Between October 2008 and April 2009 there were 130 incidences costing the taxpayer €230,000.