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This is quite a news to share with some background information.

Latvian police contacted gardai last year after they received reports that young women from the country, who had come here for arranged marriages of convenience to young men from Pakistan and a number of African countries, had subsequently suffered trafficking, rape, false imprisonment and violence.

What is “marriage of convenience”? According to wikipedia, its a marriage contracted for reasons other than the reasons of relationship, family, or love. Instead, such a marriage is orchestrated for personal gain or some other sort of strategic purpose, such as immigration. The phrase is a calque of French: mariage de convenance – a marriage of convention, or marriage of suitability.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) established Operation Charity and began cracking down on the large-scale scam to draw poor eastern European girls here for “convenience” or sham marriages. Ireland is a particular target for organised Pakistani criminals specialising in these marriages.

Gardai can bring prosecutions in cases where there is evidence of trafficking or sexual or physical violence. They can also prosecute for possessing fake documents. But because of a 2008 judgement by the European Court of Justice overruling our immigration laws, they cannot prosecute people over the sham marriages alone. The Baltic states brides are EU citizens and entitled to be here.

In the past, officers from the GNIB have uncovered a range of false documents, and computer and printing equipment used for forgery. The extent of the counterfeiting showed a high degree of organisation and is linked to the equally well organised operation of sham marriages between young men illegally in Ireland and girls from Baltic states who have come here to marry for cash.

The illicit operation has been running for years but was only picked up last year after a series of successful prosecutions in the UK by border police who uncovered and broke up several sham marriage rackets. In the past year, courts in Britain have handed down sentences of up to four years for “assisting unlawful immigration”….

Most of the young women are in dire economic straits, gardai say. Latvia and the other Baltic states have been hit far harder than Ireland by the international economic recession, with major job losses. Unemployment rates are around 17 per cent, while state benefits are tiny compared to those available here and are stopped entirely after nine months. Public sector pay was cut in some instances by up to 40 per cent.

Poverty in the post-Soviet state has caused many young women to seek work in the sex trade. Sex tourism to Riga, the capital, has increased dramatically in recent years to the extent that Latvians themselves have described Riga as the “Baltic Bangkok“.

Many of the girls responding to the ads are destitute and desperate, gardai say. The offer is generally of €2,000 in cash, plus flights and accommodation. Some of the Pakistani marriage gangs offer to pay up to €10,000, but gardai believe such large sums are never paid.

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