New legislation reduces number of marriages of convenience

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A sharp reduction in the number of marriages in Ireland last year between EU citizens from outside Ireland and a non-EU citizen is being attributed to the introduction of legislation designed to crack down on marriages of convenience.

Figures published by the General Register Office show 426 couples involving two foreigners with one partner from outside the EU were married in the Republic in 2016. It compares to 860 in 2015 and 1,163 in 2014.

The office figures reveal that 41% of such couples who notified the Irish authorities of their intention to marry last year did not proceed with their wedding.

Only about 20% of couples in that category failed to go ahead with a marriage ceremony between 2012 and 2014. There has been a significant reduction in the number of citizens from Pakistan involved in such marriages — down from around 400 in 2014 and 2015 to 58 last year.

The registrar general Kieran Feely said the problem of marriages of convenience, as a means of circumventing immigration controls, became more acute following a ruling by the European Court of Justice in the Matock case in 2008.

It allowed the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen to move and reside with their partner within the EU without having previously been lawfully resident in a member state.

The judgement did not apply to a non-EU spouse married to an Irish citizen.

Mr Feely said: “Non-EU nationals marrying Irish nationals are not entitled to EU Treaty rights in Ireland, so there is much less of an incentive to contract a marriage of convenience with an Irish citizen.”

The registrar general said the number of notices of intention to marry involving non-Irish EU and non-EU couples had grown “fairly dramatically” in recent years. They rose from 883 in 2012 to 1,584 in 2015 — an 80% increase.

In his annual report to the Department of Social Protection, Mr Keely said there had been an equally dramatic fall last year when the numbers fell by 56% to 702. “The introduction of the measures contained in section 18 of the Civil Registration (Amendment) Act 2014 has obviously had a significant impact,” said Mr Keely.

The legislation which came into effect in January 2016 allows for a marriage that is determined to be a marriage of convenience to be declared invalid.


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Men “propositioning” children in direct provision centres

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The report found that children are “unhappy” about the length of their stays in the system with a number of children saying they have lived in the system since they were born.

Many also feel they are stigmatised because of where they live, in addition to suffering from racism.

Some of the complaints were about the standard of accommodation, food and the length of time they had to stay in the system.

Children also said they did not feel safe when sharing space with single men, and described their living conditions as “overcrowded” and “dirty”.

“There are loads of men bothering us,” said one child, while another commented: “There is so many men, and . . . they look creepy at you.”

These are among the findings of a Government consultation with 110 children, aged between eight and 17, living in 11 direct provision centres across the State.

Of the 4,786 residents of direct provision in May this year, some 1,230, or 25 per cent, were 17 years or younger. Of these, 1,042 were aged 12 or younger.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said she was “concerned” by the reports.

“The issue was them being accommodated with large groups of single men.

“Men looking at them in a creepy way, men propositioning them. It is not a good idea to put large groups of single men in with families.”

Ms Ward warned that having this could lead to “grooming type scenarios” and called on the Government to do more.

The report was welcomed by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who said hearing the voices of children will help direct policy.

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EU faces unprecedented terror threat, says security commissioner

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The terrorist threat in Europe presents a “grim threat picture” with the battlefield broadened to include thousands of “amateur wannabe terrorists”, the MacGill Summer School heard from former British ambassador in Dublin, Sir Julian King.

He said that beating the terrorists would require more than tightening borders, but tackling the root causes of radicalisation through supporting civil society projects on the ground and working with grassroots organisations.

Sir Julian, who is the EU’s security commissioner, said this “generation of jihadi terrorists seeks to destroy our values and our way of life”.

He also referred to how Moroccan-born Rachid Redouane, one of the three London Bridge attackers who killed eight people last month, was carrying an Irish identity card and had lived in Dublin for a period of time.

“Given the indiscriminate and unpredictable pattern of attacks, the challenge for our open, liberal democracies is to successfully counter a threat of this order without jeopardising our own hard-won values and way of life – which is, after all, what we are defending,” he said.

“What makes the current terrorist threat we are facing different is that it is global, linked to a transnational religious movement which, over a number of evolutions – from the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan through al-Qaeda and to Daesh, the so-called Islamic State of today – has broadened the battlefield to the extent that it can rely on a brand, a franchise and thousands of amateur wannabe terrorists,” he said.

He added: “The puppet-masters upload instructions to the internet to pick up a kitchen knife and get into a vehicle and suddenly terrorism is within the reach of anybody with a grudge, a violent temperament or in search of a cause to fill the existential void.”

“Another five terrorist plots have been foiled since March and 18 thwarted since 2013. And with another, fortunately failed, attack in Brussels it’s clear that the tempo of the threat is unprecedented.”


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Netanyahu criticises Ireland’s stance on Israel-Palestinian conflict

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has posted a message to Facebook expressing criticism of Ireland’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The message, posted after a meeting between Netanyahu and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, stands in stark contrast to a more diplomatic tweet from the Irish minister.

Coveney arrived in Israel today to begin a three-day visit to the Middle East – his first visit to the region since his appointment last month as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

He’s visiting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank city of Ramallah as part of the trip.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met this afternoon in Jerusalem with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney,” the post from Netanyahu’s official account said.

The meeting dealt mainly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his dissatisfaction over Ireland’s traditional stance and told the Foreign Minister that his country does not condemn Palestinians for incitement and for glorifying those who commit terrorist attacks.

“The Prime Minister also asked him why Ireland helps NGOs that call for the destruction of Israel and noted that many European countries are overlooking the core problem of the conflict – the Palestinian refusal to recognize the state of the Jews.”

Coveney is also set to visit the Yad Vashem memorial today, where he will pay his respects to the victims of the Holocaust.

He is also due to meet with the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. Meetings with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Riad Malki, are scheduled for Thursday.

He’ll also meet with UN officials and Irish and Israeli NGOs who receive Irish aid funding.


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Ireland struggling to provide services for refugees

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The Government is experiencing an “inability” to find accommodation to house people caught up in the mass migration crisis and providing them with the necessary services is emerging as a “very significant issue”.

The Department of Justice’s Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) is also having problems finding further facilities here to accommodate asylum seekers from Greece who are fleeing strife in the Middle East and beyond.

In a briefing document to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, the department said that 459 asylum seekers had arrived from Greece. Some 183 of these are children, comprising 70 aged 0-4, 82 aged 5-12, and 31 aged 13-17.

It said 38 had been housed in the community using both local authority housing and accommodation pledged to the Red Cross.

It said about 100 more were due to be housed over the next two months and a further 160 in the third quarter of this year.

Officials said 344 asylum seekers have been interviewed for relocation and 264 of those have been cleared for entry to Ireland.

“It is envisaged that Ireland will have met its commitment for 1,040 by September 2017,” it said.

But the department added: “The challenge for the IRPP is scaling up the programme sufficiently to deal with the unprecedented numbers arriving and to put in place plans to disperse arrivals in multiple counties.”

Two full pages in the briefing document are redacted, but it does publish what it says are the three “main issues” arising:

  • Difficulties in procuring further emergency reception and orientation centres (EROCs) in which to accommodate arrivals, which in turn slows the rate at which asylum seekers can be brought from Greece to Ireland.
  • Inability to find suitable accommodation in communities in a reasonable timeframe for those who are ready to move out of EROCs and into the community.
  • Difficulties with service provision to our arrivals whether in EROCs or in the community. This is emerging as a very significant issue.

Elsewhere in the 149-page briefing document, officials say that 4,000 people were refused leave to land at ports of entry last year.

The report said officials were “urgently examining” the impact of a Supreme Court judgement last May on the right of asylum seekers to work.

It said there were high-profile judicial reviews ongoing with “potentially significant impact” on the department, including a review seeking to prevent the enforcement of deportation orders and claims for damages in relation to delays in processing cases.

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Uncommon for illegal workers to be prosecuted

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A new report on illegal employment in Ireland has found that illegal non-EU workers are common in child and elderly care and the catering industry.

The ESRI published new research today examining the illegal employment of non-EU nationals in Ireland.

The report identified a range of negative outcomes from illegal employment including risks to fundamental worker’s rights, poor working conditions and non-payment of taxes.

Non-EU students, legally resident migrants and undocumented migrants were the main groups found to be working illegally. The report noted that many of the undocumented migrants entered the country legally and overstayed.

Non-EU nationals are not allowed to work in Ireland without an employment permit, unless their residence permit states otherwise. Non-EU students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and 40 hours a week during holidays without the having to hold an employment permit.

It was found that work outside of these hours is still prevalent among the international student population despite efforts to eliminate the practice.

The new research draws on a study from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MCRI) which found that almost all undocumented migrants surveyed were in employment, frequently in child and elderly care positions.

These workers can be vulnerable to exploitation as labour inspectors cannot visit private homes unannounced, severely restricting their ability to regulate this sector.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found illegal employment to be most prevalent in the catering sector, including in fast food and takeaway restaurants.

The study also found that prosecutions under the Immigration Act for illegal employment are uncommon.

The WRC has the power to prosecute both employers and employees under employment law, but the focus is usually on the employer, who is given an opportunity to rectify the matter.

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Ireland should seriously consider Irexit, says UK think tank

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Ireland should give “serious consideration” to following Britain out of the EU, a right-leaning UK think tank said.

The State could opt to remain with the UK in a customs and free trade area, while negotiating as favourable as possible trade and investment terms with the remaining 26 member states, Policy Exchange added.

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny firmly rejected any suggestion that Ireland should leave the EU, saying the foundation of Ireland’s prosperity and the bedrock of its modern society was membership of the European Union.

But this report by the influential British research organisation said: “In the circumstances, Ireland must give serious consideration to other options, including Irexit.”

The document was drawn up by Ray Bassett, a former Irish diplomat and commentator.

It said Ireland faced a huge choice.

“The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?

“If the Irish Government is willing to pay that price, will the Dáil, and possibly the population in a referendum, be equally willing to do so?”

The report said:

– Access to the Single Market need not be synonymous with full EU membership.

– The EU is facing “huge problems” and its future direction is unlikely to be in Ireland’s interests.

– The DUP’s central role in Brexit negotiations as part of its relationship with the Tories should facilitate strong cooperation across Ireland.

It said: “Simply sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is essentially untenable.

“The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the European Union as an institution.

“This is prioritised in their guidelines, approved by the European Council.

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