· Minister Fitzgerald welcomes success of Garda operation tackling facilitators of sham marriages and illegal immigration
· “Operation Vantage sends an unequivocal message to those who would abuse our immigration laws that their actions will not be tolerated”
· Recent legislation giving marriage Registrars extensive new powers to prevent marriages abuses successfully being used to thwart sham marriages
· Legislation before the Oireachtas strengthens the State's powers to enforce Deportation Orders
25th November, 2015
Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D. today commended the Garda Commissioner and the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the success of today's Operation Vantage which is designed to tackle facilitators of sham marriages and illegal immigration.
Commenting on today's Garda Operation which saw over 200 Gardaí deployed in raids on 42 locations, the Minister said, “Operation Vantage, assisted by officials of the immigration service of my Department, sends an unequivocal message to those who would abuse our immigration laws that their actions will not be tolerated. All necessary enforcement measures will be taken against such persons. They can expect to face the full force of our criminal and immigration laws.”
“This operation is not a once off intervention. It forms part of an overall response being led by my Department including preventing marriages of convenience from taking place and taking a fresh look at past cases with a view to revoking immigration permissions that may have been obtained under false pretences.”
Minister Fitzgerald pointed to the Operation as an example of a multi-agency approach to this complex matter. Officials from the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, the Department of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) were involved in the planning of Operation Vantage and assisted Gardaí in carrying out today’s searches.
The Minister also reiterated the importance of recent legislation to give marriage Registrars extensive new powers to prevent the abuse of the institution of marriage and the exploitation of women for immigration purposes. As a result of this legislation 55 formal objections to pending marriages have been made by the Gardaí through Operation Vantage.
Minister Fitzgerald said, "In Ireland in recent years there has been increasing concerns about the growth of sham marriages, as evidenced by statistically improbable patterns of marriage. Recent legislation will make 'marriages of convenience' an impediment to marriage and will allow a Registrar the right to investigate and to form an opinion, based on the information presented by the two parties, of the veracity of the application to marry. Today's operation focuses on those who are facilitating this activity and making large sums of money from it by producing false documentation and false employment histories".
"I am also increasingly concerned that in some instances women may be trafficked to Ireland with a view to being forced into sham marriages. Any such cases are thoroughly investigated by the Garda authorities as a criminal matter and the introduction of this legislation is an essential addition in deterring such activities."
The International Protection Bill, published last week, will also assist in respect of the State's capacity to enforce deportation orders in certain circumstances where the person, the subject of the order, seeks to evade or frustrate their deportation. It is essential, in the context of the wider migration crisis in the EU that humanitarian measures for those in need of protection are balanced by an effective returns programme for those who have no basis to be in the State. The new Bill will improve the effectiveness of existing legislative provisions allowing for the: arrest, detention and removal of non-nationals against whom a deportation is in force; and removal from the State of persons refused leave to land.