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Operation Vantage: Nationwide sham marriage investigation leads to 200 deportations

Almost 200 illegal immigrants have been deported or removed from the country as a result of a nationwide Garda operation into suspected “marriages of convenience” and fraud.

In the latest phase of the operation, codenamed Vantage, officers from the Garda national immigration bureau arrested 13 suspects following a series of searches in three counties.

One man has already been deported and seven others have claimed asylum.

The 13 were lodged at Cloverhill, Limerick and Mountjoy prisons to await deportation. A total of 17 searches were carried out following surveillance at various locations in Limerick, Waterford and Dublin.

Bureau members were backed up by a special evader tracking unit, which was set up to target suspects subject to deportation orders.

The 13 arrested men included 10 Pakistanis, two Bangladeshis and one Mauritian, all of whom had taken part in sham marriages and pretence to obtain a residency card and qualify for EU treaty rights permission to remain here.

Another 11 suspects, Chinese, Malaysian, Pakistani and Mexican nationals, were identified as having no legal status or immigration history within the State.

They are also now subject to immigration control under the Immigration Act, 2004.

And a further 26 foreign nationals, suspected of being either engaged in marriages of convenience, abuses of EU treaty rights or breaches of student permission, have also been pinpointed for fresh investigations.

Gardaí said last night the operation focused primarily on marriages between EU nationals and non-EU nationals.

The women involved in the latest sham marriages were from Latvia, Bulgaria, France and the UK.

Since Vantage was established in August 2015 under Det Chief Supt Dave Dowling, more than 1,100 individual investigation reports have been completed by the bureau, where marriages of convenience and fraud are suspected.

These reports were forwarded to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (Inis) and have so far resulted in deportation and removal orders for 193 people while the others are under continuing investigation.

Twenty-four officers took part in the latest searches, which were carried out last week under section 78 of the International Protection Act, 2015, providing the power of entry to a premises to look for a person named in a valid deportation order.

Previous inquiries established criminal networks, operating here and in the UK, were behind the scams.

Irish Independent

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