Women and girls trafficked to Ireland for sham marriages – report

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Gardaí interviewed 47 Latvian women who had been trafficked to Ireland solely to enter into a sham marriage with a non-EU citizen, a new report has revealed.

The women had all been paid upfront for entering into the marriages and none of them complained, according to the Immigration Council of Ireland. Many had been recruited through Facebook.

In another example of a sham marriage, a 17-year-old Slovak girl was trafficked into Ireland after her brother had sold her for €300 in order for her to be married to an older man. The girl was rescued and received support from Tusla. Three suspects were arrested in the case.

Nearly two-thirds of reported incidences of people trafficking to Ireland were subjected to sexual exploitation.

Of the 311 presumed victims of trafficking reported to or detected by An Garda Síochána in the last five years, 197 (63 per cent) were women or girls who were trafficked for prostitution.

Another 82 were trafficked for labour exploitation including 23 Romanian men who were exploited in a waste recycling plant.

Approximately 50 were women were trafficked for the purposes of being an au pair.

The report by the council is part of a pan-European project, TRACKS (Trafficked asylum seekers’ special needs).

It found the number of people being trafficked for labour purposes is on the rise partially because of the improving economy and the problems non-EU nationals have in getting visas. The main sectors for trafficking are agriculture, fisheries, domestic work, home care and restaurants.

A new trend in trafficking concerns pop-up car washes run by organised criminal groups, in particular from Romania, recruiting vulnerable unemployed men with the promise of a well-paid job in Ireland.

However, the report stressed that the reported figures do not reflect the real scale of the phenomenon of human trafficking in Ireland, due to difficulties in the identification of victims of trafficking.

Immigrant Council of Ireland anti-trafficking manager Nusha Yonkova said the 311 detected cases represent “just the tip of the iceberg”.


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Appeal against Dublin mosque over call to prayer ‘noise pollution’

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Plans for a large-scale mosque in west Dublin, including an 29 metre (95ft) tall minaret, have been appealed to An Bord Pleanála over fears the call to prayer would cause “noise pollution” in the area.

The Shuhada Foundation of Ireland was last month granted planning permission by Fingal County Council for the mosque, community centre, and primary school on the site of Warrenstown House, a former HSE facility in Blanchardstown.

Dr Taufiq al-Sattar, a Dublin-based neurosurgeon, pledged to build the mosque in memory of his late wife Shehnila Taufiq who died along with their daughter Zainab (19), and sons Bilal (17) and Jamal (15) in an arson attack in Leicester, England, in September 2013.

Plans for the development, which would be one of the largest mosques in Ireland, were first lodged with the council just over a year ago. They were substantially revised earlier this year after the council raised concerns about the scale of the development.

Proposals for a secondary school were omitted from the final plans and a multi-purpose events hall was reduced in size.

Patrick Regan, formerly a local resident now living in Ashbourne Co Meath, has appealed the council’s decision saying there had been “no interaction” with local residents in relation to the project.

The foundation has also submitted an appeal to the planning board against a condition set by the council prohibiting a new halal food shop as part of the development.

The new purpose-built mosque will be financed from Dr al-Sattar’s family fund, his life savings, and donations from the Muslim community in Leicester. He also has plans to fundraise among the medical community in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.


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Adults in direct provision ‘to be allowed to work’

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Adults in direct provision will soon have access to the labour market, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

He said residents had been given access to the services of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children, which was a very important step forward.

The Minister, who was speaking in the Seanad on Wednesday, said there had been a great deal of criticism of direct provision over the years.

While much of it was warranted, some of the criticism was not, he added.

“All states have to set and implement rules about people coming to the state,’’ he added. “Asylum seekers must apply for international protection status under international law on defined grounds.’’

Mr Flanagan said the system was a guarantee that every person who walked into the international protection office would have a bed, food, a shower, medical care, information and access to a wide range of services.

“I have yet to hear a credible alternative being proposed in almost two decades to the current system,’’ he added.

“All that being said, I recognise that the way this system operated for many years was wholly unsatisfactory.’’

He said the system was beset by problems as the State sought to grapple with a large volume of asylum applications, something Ireland was not used to.

Last May, a Burmese man who spent eight years in direct provision before getting refugee status unanimously won his Supreme Court appeal over laws preventing him working here before his status was decided.

The seven judge court unanimously agreed the absolute ban was “in principle” unconstitutional but has adjourned making any formal orders for six months to allow the legislature consider how to address the situation.



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Gardaí probe suspected jihadi in west of Ireland

Gardai are investigating a suspected Islamic State terror cell based in the west of Ireland.

The “organised terror cell” is headed by two Chechen brothers who have been living in Ireland for a number of years.

Senior sources have revealed that gardai have been monitoring the activities of the eight-man cell for a number of months.

The suspected Islamic extremists, who live in various rural locations, are being investigated for using An Post and courier services for ‘dummy runs’ to send items to the war-torn Middle East.

The jihadi group is also suspected of being involved in fundraising and electronically transferring funds from Ireland to extremist Islamic organisations.

“The belief is that members of this network are deeply committed to the Islamic State and they are organised,” a source said.

“It has been established that they have attempted to send small internal parts of computers to locations such as Chechnya, Iraq and Syria.

“It is believed that they have been doing this as ‘dummy runs’ for perhaps attempting to send something more sinister such as bomb components out of the country.”

The group is being monitored by detectives based in Galway but the Special Detective Unit’s Counter-Terrorism International (CTI) Unit is also aware of the suspected terror cell’s activities and it is understood that international authorities are as well.

While the group’s members, including the two brothers who are suspected of leading it, have been questioned by gardai in the past, they have not yet been arrested for any terrorist offences.

“Of course there is major concern about this radicalised extremist group and that is why they are being closely monitored,” the source added.

It is understood that there are around eight men linked to the suspected cell, all of whom live in the west. Their photographs have been circulated among gardai in the surrounding areas in order to keep tabs on them.

Gardai remain deeply concerned that an Islamic terror attack could happen here and are constantly preparing for such an eventuality, but the threat level still officially remains moderate.

This means that an attack is possible but not likely.

Last month, it emerged that a ‘shoot first’ policy against jihadi-style terrorists would be adopted by gardai under a new anti-terror plan.

The new rules, which have been circulated to all senior officers in Dublin, will reverse the force’s previously cautious approach to using firearms, even in terrorist situations.

Instead, officers will be encouraged to shoot suspects dead if, for example, they believe a jihadi attack is unfolding.



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ISIS terrorists planned Dublin attack

London Bridge attackers Youssef Zaghba, Rachid Redouane and Khuram Shazad Butt (Met Police/PA)

The Sunday Independent can reveal for the first time today that it could have been Dublin, not London, that was hit by an Islamic terror attack.

Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane, who together with a third accomplice, were shot dead by police during the London Bridge attack carried out reconnaissance two years ago on a number of high-profile locations in Dublin that they had identified as potential targets.

Butt (27) and 31-year-old Redouane, who was married to an Irish woman and lived in Dublin for a number of years, actively discussed carrying out at an attack in the capital according to reliable sources, including an Irish woman who became radicalised after converting to Islam.

At that time the two jihadists were under the strong influence of a 33-year-old Pakistani-born UK citizen named ‘Raza’ who operated an internet fraud scheme targeting Irish companies from an address in Santry, north Dublin.

The scam was designed to raise hard cash to fund logistical support for jihadists in the form of transport and false documentation including passports through a network of Irish-based Isis sympathisers.

The Sunday Independent understands that the Garda’s Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit has now established that Butt and Redouane stayed at the Santry address with ‘Raza’ on several occasions up to two years ago.

The Pakistani-born UK citizen is still on MI5 and Scotland Yard’s most-wanted list of suspects thought to have orchestrated the London Bridge atrocity carried out by Butt, Redouane and 22-year-old Youssef Zaghba.

The shadowy figure is suspected of radicalising young Muslims for Isis and orchestrating similar internet rackets – known as invoice redirection fraud – in the UK.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that ‘Raza’ is also wanted by gardai in connection with a €2.8m internet fraud from an Irish company last year.

The suspected terror chief registered a company at an address in an industrial park in Santry which was then used to set up a bank account through which the money was to be transferred to other hidden accounts in the UK.



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ISIS members use student ‘mules’ at Irish colleges to finance operations

Islamist extremists are using unsuspecting students in Irish third level colleges to transfer the proceeds of internet fraud to finance Islamic State terrorist operations.

The unwitting, mostly foreign, students are duped into opening personal accounts in Irish banks by secret IS sympathisers who are members of a back-up network providing logistical support in the form of cash and false travel documents to terrorists in Britain and Europe.

Known in the security world as “mules” the oblivious participants are given money to open the accounts in return for the PIN codes, ATM cards and online banking details.

Money obtained from Irish companies through internet fraud – which is known as invoice redirection fraud – is then electronically transferred to these accounts.

From there, the cash is again transferred in small amounts to bank accounts outside the jurisdiction to avoid raising suspicions.

The Herald reports that at least half a dozen such accounts held in the names of unsuspecting students were set up to transfer the proceeds of a €2.8m internet fraud from an Irish company in September 2016.

While similar methods are used by internet fraud gangs around the world, this is the first time that such a major IS-inspired laundering conspiracy has been detected in Ireland.

A Sunday Independent investigation revealed how two of the Islamist extremists responsible for the London Bridge terror attack on June 3, which claimed eight lives and injured 41 people, had considered the prospect of carrying out a similar atrocity in Dublin two years ago.

Khuram Shazad Butt (27) and Rachid Redouane (31), who with a third accomplice were shot dead by UK police following the attack, had reconnoitred a number of high-profile locations in Dublin they identified as potential targets.

However, Butt and Redouane, who was married to an Irishwoman and lived in Dublin for a number of years, were told by their terrorist mentor, named ‘Raza’, that such an attack would be counter-productive because Ireland was better suited as a logistics and fundraising base.

The 33-year-old Pakistani-born UK citizen operated an internet fraud racket targeting Irish companies from an address in Santry, north Dublin.

Our investigation revealed that Raza is wanted by gardai in connection with the €2.8m fraud last September.


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Census shows 535,475 foreign nationals from 200 countries are living in Ireland

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The number of people in Ireland who hold dual Irish nationality has increased by nearly 90 per cent over the last five years, with people from the US, the UK and Poland most likely to identify as dual Irish nationals, according to the latest data from the census.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) Migration and Diversity report shows that 535,475 foreign nationals from 200 different countries were living in the State in April 2016, marking a drop of 1.6 per cent on the 2011 figure.

The number of people with dual-Irish nationality increased by 87.4 per cent to 104,784 over the period with 17,552 Irish-Americans, 15,428 Irish-UK nationals and 9,273 Irish-Polish.

Nearly two-thirds of dual nationals, or 66,440 people, were born abroad.

Polish nationals made up the largest group of foreign nationals living in Ireland last year, with 122,515 Poles scattered across the State.

The second biggest group were UK nationals (103,113) followed by 36,552 Lithuanians.

The United States, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK all had more than 10,000 residents in Ireland, accounting for 73.6 per cent of the total foreign national population.

Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo was the town with the highest number of foreign nationals with nearly 40 per cent of its population consisting of non-Irish.

Two Longford towns followed, with 32.3 per cent of the population in Edgeworthstown and 32.1 per cent in Ballymahon made up of foreign nationals.

The 2016 census shows Ireland is becoming an increasingly multi-lingual country with 612,018 residents speaking a language other than Irish or English at home, marking a rise of nearly 100,000 people since 2011.

Of these, 363,715 were foreign nationals and the top languages spoken were Polish (113,225), Lithuanian (30,502) Romanian (26,645) and Portuguese (16,737).

The foreign nationals living in Ireland are also younger than the Irish population, with nearly half of all non-Irish aged between 25 and 42.

Some 15.4 per cent of the foreign nationals were unemployed in 2016, compared to 12.6 per cent among Irish.


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