450 sham marriages halted by gardaí following crackdown

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A total of 450 marriages have been halted in Ireland since the introduction of sham marriage legislation.

Gardaí set up a dedicated operation – codenamed Vantage – two years ago to tackle an alleged trafficking ring which was using women who had been trafficked illegally into Ireland to take part in sham marriages.

Since the operation was set up in August 2015, General Registrar Offices can alert gardaí if any doubts arise about the legitimacy of any potential marriages.

The latest figures from An Garda Síochána show that since August 2015, there have been more than 250 objections to marriages raised by registrars.

Gardaí confirmed that over 80 marriages have been cancelled by the General Registrar and An Garda Síochána following enquiries and investigations by Operation Vantage.

When “no shows” on the date of the ceremony are added to the picture, an excess of 450 marriages have not been completed since Operation Vantage was launched.

The crackdown has also resulted in a fall in the number of notifications of intention to marry between EU and non-EU citizens.

Figures from gardaí should that 1,468 notifications were received in 2015. Last year a total of 694 notifications were received, this shows a drop of 53%.

Levels have continued to fall in 2017 with notifications recorded in January to September 2017, compared to 580 during the same period of 2016 – a drop of 41%.


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UNHCR welcomes Irish decision to opt into EU Law on right to work for asylum-seekers

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The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has welcomed the government’s decision to bring Ireland into line with the European Union (EU) law that regulates the provision of accommodation to asylum-seekers, and provides for the right to work where they do not receive a decision within nine months.

“Yesterday’s decision by the government to opt in to the Recast Reception Conditions Directive will for the first time set out comprehensively in law the rights of asylum-seekers while they await a decision on their application. This development will, in tandem with other improvements and reforms to the accommodation system for asylum-seekers, help to restore public confidence in the direct provision system. It will also ensure better integration prospects for refugees”, said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland.

“The earlier people can access the labour market the better their chances of integration in the long term. Long periods spent waiting in direct provision for a decision on your application can lead to dependency and disempowerment among people seeking protection here.”

Further details on the exact regulations to be introduced are awaited. Although the Directive requires States to offer labour market rights to asylum-seekers waiting nine months or more for a decision, UNHCR recommends that access to the labour market be granted no later than six months from the date of lodging the application. This timeline would coincide with Article 31 (3) of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, which foresees a six month maximum timeline (save for exceptional cases/circumstances) for processing applications for international protection.



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Ireland to increase it’s intake of refugees and their extended families.

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Up to 530 family members of refugees already living in Ireland are to be reunited under new government plans.

Minister Charlie Flanagan briefed his Cabinet colleagues earlier today on the new reunification scheme, which applies to refugees from conflict zones such as Syria.

The minister also announced an increase in the number of new refugees to be resettled in Ireland over the next two years.

Last week, despite government opposition, a Private Member’s Bill to allow refugees to bring their extended family to Ireland passed to committee stage.

It’s understood Flanagan opposed the Bill as work was already underway to allow him to use his discretionary powers to reunite immediate family members not covered under the law.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, the Justice Minister Flanagan said he carefully considered the views on TDs and senators following the detailed discussions on family reunification in the Seanad.

“Family reunification is an important part of the process of integration for refugees in Ireland. I will operate this humanitarian admission programme under my Ministerial discretionary powers and it will be in addition to the family reunification provisions provided for in the International Protection Act 2015,” he said, adding:

“We have increased our resettlement commitment for 2018 to 600 refugees and we have made a new pledge to resettle an additional 600 refugees in 2019. These are the largest pledges that the State has made for resettlement in a calendar year since our national resettlement programme began in 2000.”

“It signifies our ongoing commitment to supporting the most vulnerable refugees by providing a safe haven and a welcoming environment to rebuild their lives here in Ireland. I am proud of the compassionate and welcome response of the Irish people to those fleeing harrowing conflicts, particularly in Syria.”

The details as to when the family members and additional refugees will be arriving will be announced in the coming weeks.

To minimise  the  impact  on  an  already strained housing  supply,  priority  may  be  given  to families who can meet the accommodation requirements of eligible family members.

The promise to take in the highest number of refugees to date is part of European Commission/UNHCR resettlement programme, which aims to provide 50,000 resettlement places across the European Union over the two-year period.

As part of the programme, the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) has agreed to accept up to 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees.

By early 2018, Ireland will have admitted its entire designated cohort from Greece, approximately 1,089 people, and it will have admitted double the original commitment of 520 refugees under the European Commission’s July 2015 resettlement scheme, taking in 1,040 people.



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Illegal Nigerian immigrant and Irish-born daughter lose appeal over deportation

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A Nigerian mother and her Irish-born daughter have lost their appeal claiming the child’s right to education under the Children’s Act 2015 outweighs the State’s entitlement to deport them.

The mother and daughter, now aged nine, remained in Ireland illegally after deportation orders were made in 2009. The High Court correctly held the child’s right to education while here did not prevent their deportation, the three judge Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday.

However, it disagreed with the weight given by the High Court to an European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment concerning Norway’s entitlement to operate immigration policy on the basis of identifying children with conduct of their parents.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine said the ECtHR’s decision did not mean the Irish courts should “ignore the fundamental values associated with family life” as protected by Article 42 of the Constitution.

The Courts should strive to ensure the European Convention on Human Rights is not used to reduce the level of protection of those rights.

It is “quite wrong” to treat ECtHR judgments as having similar binding status to those of the Supreme Court or Court of Justice of the EU, she said.

The Constitution requires the State to recognise the family rights of non-citizens as well as citizens and to protect them “given that these rights derive not from citizenship but from their nature as human beings”.

The Court of Appeal decision concerned a woman who was heavily pregnant when she came here alone in 2008. Her daughter was born four days later.

After applications for asylum and subsidiary protection were refused, the Minister for Justice ordered deportation of mother and daughter in late 2009.

They went into hiding for about five years until 2014 when the mother instructed solicitors to apply for revocation of deportation.

n May 2015, a month after the Children’s Act 2015 came into force, the Minister refused revocation.


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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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