Speaking today at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter T.D. alerted his colleague Ministers to his serious concern about highly irregular patterns of marriage in Ireland involving EU nationals and third country nationals in the context of the exercise of EU freedom of movement rights.

In a strongly worded intervention at the meeting the Minister said "Free movement is a fundamental right for citizens of the EU. However, evidence is emerging in Ireland that this very fundamental right of all EU citizens is being abused by those seeking to circumvent proper immigration controls on entering the Union. One such abuse is the evidence of highly unusual patterns of marriage involving EU citizens and third country nationals. For example, last year almost 400 applications for residence were lodged in Ireland by non EEA nationals on foot of their marriage to Latvian nationals. The non EEA nationals in question were from Pakistan and to a lesser degree, the Ukraine and India."

Minister Shatter told the meeting that prior to entering Government, he had been outspoken on this issue; upon entering Government earlier this year he had asked his officials to look anew at the provision in the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill to draft amendments dealing with immigration related marriages of convenience and sham marriages.  While he acknowledged that there is no magic bullet to deal with this issue, he stated he will be bringing forward proposals on it when he reintroduces this Bill in the Dail shortly. 

Minister Shatter also welcomed the significant attention being given by the Gardaí to tackle abuses in this area which has led to arrests and to other intelligence led operations designed to tackle the problem. Moreover, the Minister noted that co operation between all the services in this area i.e. the Gardaí, his own Department and the Superintendent of Marriage Registrars, has been stepped up. His own Department has also introduced interviews of selected applicants and their spouses with a view to establishing if the marriage between the parties was entered into solely with the intention of seeking residence rights.  

Minister Shatter, whose concerns about abuses in this respect were shared by the UK Home Secretary Ms Theresa May, went on to say that there is a real and demonstrable need to ensure EU residential rules are not exploited by the creation of sham marriages, he also called for greater harmonisation among Member States in their asylum determination and protection systems. The Minister stated that "We must at all times be fully alert to the needs of those fleeing persecution, and fully comply with our international obligations under the Geneva Convention of 1951 to provide protection and must also ensure that divergences in our systems do not result in inconsistent and contradictory decisions by EU Member States." 

9 June 2011

Note to Editors

In 2010 applications based on marriage to a Latvian spouse were received from 173 Pakistani nationals, 33 Ukrainians and 53 Indian nationals.