Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Department of Justice and Equality
Operation Vantage was established on the 10 August 2015 by the Garda National Immigration Bureau to investigate illegal immigration with a particular focus on marriages of convenience as defined under the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act, 2014. There has been increasing concern about the growth in so called 'sham marriages' as evidenced by statistically improbable patterns of marriages including a large number of new notifications of intention to marry from males from the Indian sub-continent (i.e. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh) to females from EU countries, particularly Portugal and Eastern European countries.
I am informed that, as a part of this ongoing operation, a large number of searches were conducted across the country on Wednesday 25 November involving over 200 members of An Garda Síochána which included a number of specialist units. Over 40 searches were conducted of both business and residential premises across the country to gather evidence of suspected fraud offences related to the organised facilitation of marriages of convenience. This was a multi-agency approach involving the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), the Department of Social Protection, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Revenue Commissioners. The focus of the operation is specifically targeted at those engaged in organised facilitation of sham marriages for financial gain as well as those who are seeking to gain illegal immigration status by engaging in such arranged marriages. I am assured that all necessary enforcement measures will be taken where breaches of relevant legislation are identified.
I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that a total of 11 people were arrested for a range of offences under the Immigration Acts and Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. In addition a large amount of computers, memory devices, phones and documents including false identity documents, driving licences, marriage certificates and a substantial quantity of cash were seized.
I can assure the Deputy that Operation Vantage is ongoing and forms part of the overall response of my Department to prevent marriages of convenience from taking place. This includes a review of relevant applications by INIS with a view to revoking immigration permission which may have been obtained under false pretences.