Organised criminal gangs are making massive profits by trafficking women from Eastern European countries to Ireland and forcing them to wed mostly Asian men in sham marriages, the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) has warned.
The organisation claims that hundreds of young women from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been brought into the country by ruthless traffickers who take advantage of the fact that their victims are often poor, have little education and sometimes suffer from mental health problems.
According to figures from the ICI, Ireland has the highest recorded rate of this type of crime in the whole of the EU. The immigrants’ rights group claims Irish lawmakers are not doing enough to stamp out the problem, and that the authorities have a poor system in place for identifying the victims of trafficking.
The gangs are said to charge men from countries such as India, Pakistan and Mauritius as much as €20,000 to marry one of the women, which gives them the right to live and work in EU countries. One Dublin-based organised crime group is said to have made as much as €20 million by arranging sham marriages.
“This is not about the sham marriage itself, but rather it is about using trafficking to profit from the desire of people to enter into sham marriages”, said Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the ICI.
“The law protects victims of trafficking and punishes those who enter into marriages of convenience. These women are in between both of those classifications, and we need legislation to recognise their specific circumstance.”
In a report that took over two years to compile, the ICI found women exploited by trafficking gangs are often exposed to appalling treatment, including “physical and psychological abuse; and incidents of rape, sexual abuse and enforced domestic servitude”. In most cases, the ICI found victims had some sort of a connection with their initial recruiters, who were often friends or family members.
Concerns over the rising incidents of sham marriages in Ireland were raised back in August when figures revealed nearly half of all planned nuptials between non-Irish EU citizens and non-EU citizens in the country did not go ahead.
“While it would be wrong to characterise all marriages between EU and non-EU nationals as marriages of convenience, the relatively low rate of conversion of notices of intention to marry would suggest that marriages of convenience are a significant problem,” Kieran Feely, Ireland’s Registrar General, said at the time.
According to figures published by the General Register Office, Pakistanis were involved in the highest number of marriages involving non-Irish EU citizens and non-EU citizens in the country last year, followed by citizens from Brazil, and then India.