Projekto veiklos

HESTIA project partners are preparing for ambitious anti-trafficking activities
 
 
03.07.2016. Implementing the project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) on 28 – 30 June 2016 project partners from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland and Finland met at the project’s coordination meeting in Bratislava (Slovak Republic) hosted by the project’s Slovak partner – Ministry of the Interior.
 
The meeting was opened by Ms Petra Barnova, Head of the Secretary of the Governmental Council for Crime Prevention who highlighted the importance of cross-border cooperation and inter-governmental support to address trafficking in human beings efficiently and more targeted.
 
 
HESTIA project partners: Ministry of the Interior (Latvia), NGO "Shelter “Safe House"" (Latvia), NGO "Mittetulundusühing"" "Living for Tomorrow" (Estonia); NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania); Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland); Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic (Slovakia); European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland). Project associated partners: The State Police (Latvia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Latvia), Department of Justice and Equality (Ireland).
 

During the meeting the main focus was put on two topics – development of the Research Report and Multidisciplinary Training: development of training methodology and materials.

European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) presented the preliminary findings of the research and the draft research report which will be made publicly available during the anti-trafficking week when the European Union Anti-Trafficking Day is marked in all EU Member States. The HESTIA Research Report will be officially published on the 18th of October. The Research Report contains the research and five national reports done by Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic and it focuses very much on the commonalities and differences related to exploitative sham marriages in the project partner countries, terminology, conceptual and methodological issues. Particular topics – recruitment tactics, target groups, perpetrators, forms of exploitation and control, role of organized crime – are explored in the research.

The Training Methodology developed by the society “Shelter “Safe House”” and the State Police (LV) in cooperation with HEUNI was discussed in details to be sure that it provides understanding and guidance for counter-trafficking activities for trainees about the topic of sham marriages and trafficking in human beings and could be further adapted by every EU Member States to provide anti-trafficking trainings for practitioners.

Autumn 2016 is approaching with a set of anti-trafficking measures – pilot trainings for multi-disciplinary groups, awareness raising campaigns marking the EU Anti-Trafficking Day and debriefing meetings in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovak Republic and Ireland. Finishing the project Latvia will host an international conference on 14 – 15 November and the results, conclusions and recommendations will be presented at a meeting of the European Union Informal Network of National Rapporteurs or Equivalent Mechanisms on Trafficking in Human Beings in December in Brussels.

*Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845. An implementation of HESTIA project was launched on 1 January 2015. #HESTIA_THB

 

Alertness in the fight against sham marriages still present

21.03.2016. In short:

  • The main countries of origin of victims of sham marriages are the eastern member states of the EU – Latvia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, the female citizens of which are willingly or fraudulently taken to western states to enter into sham marriages with citizens of third countries.
  • A human trafficking victim is deprived of freedom, is sexually abused by being subjected to violent and degrading treatment and sometimes even being forced to give birth to a child, thus completely ensuring the third country citizen with the opportunity to stay within the EU. The respective person is employed against her own will, whereas the documents are used to obtain credit and loans.
  • The Garda Síochána (the national police service of Ireland) is currently assessing 1700 marriages, including those between Latvian and third country citizens, which have been concluded over the past two years.
  • The overall number of sham marriages has decreased. This has been facilitated by public awareness campaigns and activities in Latvia, as well as the regulatory framework that prescribes criminal liability for ensuring a third country national with a possibility to legally acquire the right to stay in Latvia, another member state of the EU, member state of the European Economic Area or in the Swiss Confederation in bad faith.
  • The fight against sham marriages has been expanded to a level of cooperation between several states. The project “Preventing Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages: A Multidisciplinary Solution” (HESTIA) has been started.
European Union member states are concerned about dealing with the enormous flow of asylum seekers. Whereas the aim of the asylum seekers themselves is to find ways and solutions to acquire the rights for free movement within the Schengen Area as legally as possible and to acquire permanent residency rights in their desired host countries. For this purpose sham marriages may be used, which is actually a form of human trafficking that has caused a lot of problems and even suffering to Latvian nationals – victims of sham marriages – already before the so-called refugee crisis.
 
 
Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (Ministry of the Interior) and Manager of the HESTIA* project
 
 
It is difficult to assess physical or moral traumas for a person resulted from forced enter into a sham marriage against her own will. A human trafficking victim is deprived of freedom, is sexually abused by being subjected to violent and degrading treatment and sometimes even being forced to give birth to a child, thus completely ensuring the third country citizen with the opportunity to stay within the European Union. The respective person is employed against her own will, whereas the documents are used to obtain credit and loans. 
 
At the moment it is difficult to predict to what extent the inflow of asylum seekers in Europe and the future migration processes will affect the involvement of Latvian citizens in sham marriages, but it is indicated in Europol’s 18th February publication of this year that the migration crisis in North Africa and the Middle East will have a major impact on the trafficking of human beings, and there is also an assumption provided that attempts to gain legitimate residency within the European Union will result in more forced marriages of convenience. The main countries of origin of victims of sham marriages that are mentioned in the Europol report are the eastern member states of the European Union – including Latvia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, the female citizens of which are willingly or fraudulently taken to western states to enter into sham marriages with citizens of third countries. Many of these cases originate, for example, in Ireland, which is now the home country of many Latvian citizens.
 
Whereas over the last year there were 71 marriages registered between Latvian citizens and third country citizens, statistically taking up a stable second place behind Portugal, 122 marriages of such sort were concluded between citizens of Portugal and third countries. Certainly, not all civil acts are fictious, but, as practice shows, almost half of such marriages have not been concluded with the aim to establish a family, but in order for third country nationals to acquire a residence permit in the European Union. As one can see, the number of marriages between Latvian nationals and third country citizens has decreased at least in Ireland. This has been promoted by public awareness campaigns and activities in Latvia, as well as the regulatory framework of our state that prescribes criminal liability for ensuring a third country national with a possibility to legally acquire the right to stay in Latvia, another member state of the EU, member state of the European Economic Area or in the Swiss Confederation in bad faith.
 
(It is necessary to give a reminder that the deliberate and willing conclusion of a sham marriage for remuneration is a criminal offence against the state, for which the organisers of such marriages, as well as recruiters, intermediaries, and persons entering into a sham marriage are to be held criminally responsible, and according to Section 285.of the Criminal Law may be punished with deprivation of liberty for a term of up to five years.)

Positive results have also been provided through the education of those specialists and practitioners in Latvian regions who are working directly with groups of citizens that are most at risk and that could be persuaded or deceived by human traffickers by luring the respective people abroad and forcing them to enter into a sham marriage.

A significant contribution has also been provided by initiatives of the Irish government by increasing the powers of marriage registrants to refuse the registration of suspicious marriages and inform the authorities about such cases, as well as by forming a specialised police unit, the main task of which is to combat such illegal activities.

 

Collaboration on an international level

The fight against sham marriages has been expanded to a multinational level of cooperation: during January of the previous year the international project “Preventing Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages: A Multidisciplinary Solution” (HESTIA) was started under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Latvia, and it is being implemented with the support of Directorate General of Home Affairs of European Commission “Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme”.

There are significant aims and objectives for solving the respective problem determined within the project – forming awareness about sham marriages as a form of human trafficking and a criminal offence against a person, developing specific methodology for specialists and practitioners in order for it to be possible to prevent possible human trafficking, identify human trafficking cases and victims, and provide them with state and local government support and assistance.

Partners of the HESTIA project from Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland, Slovakia, and Finland have provided information about the project, its goals and the researched problem at various national, regional and international events, and as a result it is already possible to observe that an understanding regarding the problem is forming among EU member states and a desire to combat this new form of human trafficking is growing.

On 11 and 12 April of this year Vienna will host the high level conference “Alliance against Trafficking in Persons”, organised by Ambassador Madina Jarbussynova, OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. The main theme of this event will be human trafficking for forced criminality. The Latvian delegation is invited to promote a discussion on sham marriages as a new form and trend of human trafficking during the conference.

In the current political conditions it is of utmost importance to continue to raise public awareness about the possibility of human trafficking and its forms, by directly addressing those groups of Latvian citizens that are subjected to the risk of human trafficking. Those are members of the society who are in the situation of vulnerability, convince and persuade due to various reasons, as there might be a situation of vulnerability when the respective people do not have any acceptable or real choice for further living and they do not have the experience to make decisions on their own and act on behalf of their future. They are mostly young people (especially from orphanages), individuals with mental or physical health problems, people who have been out of work for a long time, or have credit liabilities, debts.

It is very important to help these socially vulnerable people in solving their problems, so that the situation does not worsen and they do not accept tempting but unfair offers to earn “easy” money abroad, thus also concluding marriages with third country nationals and frequently getting into cruel enslavement.

 

Sham marriages are not common in Latvia

There are no cases of Latvian citizens forcibly entering into sham marriages with third country nationals identified within our own state. According to data of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, in 2013, temporary residence permits issued in Latvia were terminated in three cases (in which sham marriages were concluded between Latvian citizens and citizens from Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Ukraine), whereas in 2014, there was only one temporary residence permit that was terminated, and it was issued on the basis of a concluded sham marriage between a citizen of Latvia and a Jordan national. There were no signs of human trafficking identified in any of these cases. But that does not mean that we can afford to lower our guard in the fight against sham marriages.

 
*Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.
 
HESTIA project partners:  Ministry of the Interior (Latvia), NGO "Shelter “Safe House"" (Latvia), NGO "Mittetulundusühing"" "Living for Tomorrow" (Estonia); NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania); Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland); Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic (Slovakia); European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland). Project associated partners: The State Police (Latvia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Latvia), Department of Justice and Equality (Ireland).
#HESTIA_THB
 
Information about the research progress of the HESTIA project provided at an international seminar
 
02.03.2016. On 29 February 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden a workshop on policy implications on future trends in trafficking was organised within the framework of the international project TRACE “TRafficking as A Criminal Enterprise”, and during it a presentation on sham marriages as a new form of human trafficking was given by the leading researcher of the international project “Preventing Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages: A Multidisciplinary Solution” (HESTIA), which is realised under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Latvia, Ms Minna Viuhko from the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI) in Finland.
 
During the presentation M. Viuhko introduced the participants of the seminar to the course of the research of the HESTIA project, as well as its aims and main challenges that HEUNI has faced while carrying out the research. She informed those present that the aim of the research is to study the link between sham marriages and human trafficking, provide new information about the factors of vulnerability of a person, as a result of which people get involved in sham marriages and are subjected to exploitation, and she also provided information about the methods and techniques that promote and facilitate sham marriages, the consequences of which include human trafficking and exploitation.
 
The researcher underlined that the research, being based on the national studies carried out within the framework of the project in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ireland, and Slovakia, is looking for interconnections and is studying the phenomenon of sham marriages in the context of human trafficking as a criminal offence against a person, when the person is used with the aim to ensure a third country national with the possibility to acquire a legal right to stay in a European Union member state, i.e. to acquire a residence permit in the European Union, as well as the further exploitation of the person deriving from it, and is not studying sham marriages as a violation and a criminal offence against the state and its legislative framework. It is the person exploitation factor that is significant within the context of the research on sham marriages.
 
The representative of HEUNI indicated that the main research questions, to which comprehensive answers must be provided within the study, are the following: What links are there between sham marriages and human trafficking (between the organisation of sham marriages and human trafficking)? How have the persons who have entered into sham marriages got into human trafficking/exploitation situations? To what forms of exploitation are the victims subjected? What are the weaknesses of the system/legislation/administrative procedures that facilitate and promote human trafficking in the context of the conclusion of sham marriages? What can be done to improve the identification of (human trafficking/severe exploitation) cases/victims? What could be done to improve the support for victims? What can be done to prevent exploitation? Within the scope of the research sham marriages are assessed only as marriages for the legalisation of the stay of third country nationals within the European Union; similarities and differences with regard to these sham marriages are searched for in the five partner countries of the HESTIA project. The main problems of the research are related to definitions and legal acts (what is criminalised, what should criminal liability be imposed for, elements of exploitation, elements of human trafficking).
 
M. Viuhko indicated that the biggest challenge of the HESTIA project is to carry out research on something that does not have a name, that has not been defined, and regarding which there is no common understanding. The challenge for developing a common understanding is formed by the different terms that are used in European Union member states to describe sham marriages, with them having the same meaning in some states and a different meaning of a marriage-related problem in other states. A completely new term – “exploitative sham marriages” – is currently being used within the scope of the research. Research is being carried out regarding in what situations the exploitative sham marriages can be considered human trafficking, with attention given to immigration laws and the fear of people regarding the use of these legal norms in bad faith, and also research is being conducted on at what moment the state system is being abused and at what moment people are being abused.
 
 
*Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.
 
HESTIA project partners:  Ministry of the Interior (Latvia), NGO "Shelter “Safe House"" (Latvia), NGO "Mittetulundusühing"" "Living for Tomorrow" (Estonia); NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania); Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland); Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic (Slovakia); European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland). Project associated partners: The State Police (Latvia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Latvia), Department of Justice and Equality (Ireland).
#HESTIA_THB
 
An increase in human trafficking is anticipated due to the migration crisis
 
09.01.2016. It is stated in Europol’s 2015 Situation Report on trafficking in human beings in the EU that the current migration crisis will leave a significant impact on human trafficking. The report foresees that the volumes and trends of human trafficking in relation to sexual and labour exploitation will increase in the near future. It is also expected that there will be an increase in human trafficking with the purpose to conclude sham marriages in order to meet the demand for attempts of acquiring legal rights to reside within the EU.
 
 
The problem is also common in Latvia – there are at least 16 suspects
 
Over the past year the Organised Crime Combating Board (OCCB) of the State Police started three criminal proceedings in relation to human trafficking – two regarding forced marriages and one regarding sexual exploitation. According to data of the Ministry of the Interior, five people – four men and an underaged girl – have been declared as suspects The OCCB has sent two criminal proceedings against 12 persons – four women and eight men, two of whom are Pakistani nationals – to the prosecutor’s office to commence criminal prosecution. Over the past year four people were acknowledged as victims of human trafficking – an adult woman with slight signs of vulnerability and three underaged girls.
 
According to data of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, 26 residence permits were terminated in Latvia during the period from 2009 to 2014 due to concluded sham marriages. In 2014, a residence permit was terminated for one Jordanian citizen, in 2013 – one citizen of Kazakhstan, as well as one Pakistani citizen and one Ukrainian citizen, in 2012 – four Russian citizens and one citizen of Cameroon, in 2011 – one Pakistani citizen, one South African citizen, one American citizen, as well as a Turkish citizen, in 2010 – two Russian and two Armenian citizens, as well as one Ukrainian citizen, whereas in 2009 – two Russian citizens, three Georgian citizens and one Armenian citizen.
 
 
Latvians become fictitious wives in Ireland
 
According to information of the Garda Síochána (the national police service of Ireland) that was gathered during the extensive “Operation Vantage” investigation on sham marriages, there were 1,697 marriages concluded between the EU citizens and third county citizens in Ireland during the time period from 1 November 2014 to 31 July 2015. It was possible to identify a trend that these marriages are mostly concluded between men from the Indian subcontinent and women who are citizens of the EU member states – women from Portugal, Latvia, Romania, Hungary, and Estonia.
 
The men who concluded these marriages in Ireland mostly came from Pakistan – 328, India – 114, and Bangladesh – 74. Whereas the women – citizens of the EU member states who got married to third country nationals – came mainly from countries such as Portugal – 237, Latvia – 71, and Hungary – 69. The respective marriages were most often concluded between citizens of Pakistan and Portugal – 122 marriages, citizens of Pakistan and Latvia – 46, and citizens of India and Portugal – 44. It is believed that most of the marriages are sham marriages.
 
According to data of the Garda National Immigration Bureau of Ireland, organisers of sham marriages receive between 10,000 and 15,000 euros for one concluded marriage. It is indicated that the brides receive only a small amount of this sum.
 
 
Inspection of suspicious marriages
 
Whilst explaining the situation in Ireland, Ms Vija Buša, Counsellor of the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in Ireland and Head of the Consular Department, indicates that amendments to the Civil Registration Act of Ireland came into force on 18 August of the previous year, providing the possibility to intervene in suspicious marriages. At the same time as these amendments came into force the Garda Síochána (the national police service of Ireland) started realising the previously mentioned “Operation Vantage”. A group consisting of 16 detectives was created with the aim to combat sham marriages, Ms Buša explains. By using both of these options it is planned to review approximately 1,700 marriages that have been concluded over the past two years. More than 50 marriages have already been terminated, and 22 persons have been accused of providing false information or fake documents. Also several organisers of sham marriages have been arrested. Moreover, several fictive companies that provide fake documents for submission to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service with the aim to receive a residence permit have been identified. Also during the operation on 25 November of the past year around 200 Irish policemen conducted searches at 40 locations in eight counties of Ireland, placing 11 persons under arrest.
 
Ms Buša indicates that the Garda Síochána (the national police service of Ireland) is interested in cooperating in order to acquire evidence on sham marriages. The Irish side has thanked the Embassy of Latvia and the Latvian State Police for the good cooperation in the field of sham marriages by stating that it has been very efficient and constructive and that the necessary information has been acquired quickly, thus allowing discovery of the committed crimes, the Embassy’s representative explained.
 
 
An understanding regarding sham marriages as human trafficking is reached through cooperation between six states
 
On 1 January of the previous year six EU member states – Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland, Slovakia, and Finland – started implementing the European Commission co-funded project “Preventing Human Trafficking and Sham Marriages: A Multidisciplinary Solution” (HESTIA)*. The project will last until the end of this year. As it is highlighted by Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (Ministry of the Interior) and manager of this project, until the beginning of the project most of the EU member states and institutions were sceptical of the link between sham marriages and human trafficking, whereas it has now been achieved that this problem is being acknowledged more and more often. She also indicates that the ambitious goal of the HESTIA project is to solve the respective issue and offer suggestions to the European Commission in order to promote new political and legal initiatives for combatting sham marriages and human trafficking.
 
It is planned to address more than 700 000 people in six EU member states within the scope of the project. Discussions with the participation of legislators, policy planners and practitioners have already taken place on a national and regional level, comprehensive studies on the sham marriage issue have been prepared in each state, training methodology will be developed and training of employees from various fields will be carried out, and there will also be informative campaigns organised and other activities carried out.
 
Ms Stabiņa acknowledges that the previous year has been intense, productive, and, by ensuring the coordination of the HESTIA project implementation, has also provided positive emotions and satisfaction with the achieved progress, since as a result, the issue of sham marriages and human trafficking is being kept in sight as one of the top priorities in the prevention of human trafficking not only in the partner states. “The understanding regarding this phenomenon has also significantly increased in other European Union member states,” Ms Stabiņa indicates.
 
It is planned the work of the project will be just as intensive in 2016, as, on the basis of research results, work will be carried out on the development of training methodology that will be adapted to educate practitioners of the project’s partner states, the project manager explains. There are also extensive informative activities for the public and field specialists planned to be carried out on 18 October, which is the EU Anti-Trafficking Day.
 
 
Volumes of human trafficking to increase due to the migration crisis
 
It is stated in Europol’s 2015 Situation Report on trafficking in human beings in the EU that the current migration crisis will leave a significant impact on human trafficking. The report foresees that the volumes and trends of human trafficking in relation to sexual and labour exploitation will increase in the near future. It is also expected that there will be an increase in human trafficking with the purpose to conclude sham marriages in order to meet the demand for attempts of acquiring legal rights to reside within the EU.
 
In this context Ms Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and Manager of the HESTIA project, explains that the EU member states are already full of migrants who are looking for possibilities to stay in the EU legally. But it cannot be forgotten that this target group is also exposed to the risk of human trafficking, as migrants find themselves in a helpless situation. “They have left their home country and their homes, they do not know the language nor their rights, they don’t have any money. And there will always be people who will find this favourable and who will try to earn money from it. Therefore Latvia might also potentially become a target state, where people could be exploited,” Ms Stabiņa stresses. Therefore on the one hand, when taking in refugees, Latvia has to ensure an efficient action plan for fulfilling the well-being and staying requirements of the refugees in order for them to remain in the sight of the responsible institutions and non-governmental organisations, the representative of the Ministry of the Interior indicates. And on the other hand, the work that has been already started on the reduction of human trafficking cases has to be continued, by informing the public and especially the target groups subjected to the risk of human trafficking, as well as educating workers of institutions and organisations who come into contact with potential human trafficking victims during their daily work. She also highlights that it is necessary to form a law enforcement approach that is based on the identification of the crime organiser-exploiter (the true financial beneficiary) and on the confiscation of profit gained as a result of human exploitation. It is necessary to place the emphasis on the alleviation of material incentive, she adds.
 
It is indicated in the Europol report that the main countries of origin of sham marriage victims are the eastern member states of the EU – including Latvia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia – the citizens of which (young women) are taken to the EU’s western member states, where they are forced to enter into a sham marriage with men from Asia, usually Pakistan and India.
 
The report also highlights that it is not possible to identify the volumes of sham marriages due to the differing regulatory frameworks of the EU member states and the lack of joint EU legislation for combatting sham marriages. Ms Stabiņa mentions that the understanding and terminology regarding the concept of sham marriages in the context of human trafficking is very different in various EU member states. “Besides, Latvia is the only country that imposes criminal liability for the conclusion of sham marriages in Latvia and other European Union member states. Other countries have only come up with a penalty for the conclusion of sham marriages within their territory,” Ms Stabiņa explains. She stresses that the European Commission has great expectations regarding the results of the HESTIA project started under the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Latvia, because they will be used to make decisions on the following steps in the fight against human trafficking in connection with sham marriages on the level of the whole EU.
 

*Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution"(HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.

HESTIA project partners:  Ministry of the Interior (Latvia), NGO "Shelter “Safe House"" (Latvia), NGO "Mittetulundusühing"" "Living for Tomorrow" (Estonia); NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania); Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland); Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic (Slovakia); European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland). Project associated partners: The State Police (Latvia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Latvia), Department of Justice and Equality (Ireland).

Reland addresses sham marriages – significant amendments to the Civil Registration Act of Ireland

20.08.2015. On 18 August of this year amendments to the Civil Registration Act of Ireland came into force, providing marriage registrars with more power in the assessment of suspicious applications to marry by giving special attention to couples in which one of the parties is a citizen of a European Union member state, whereas the other – a third country national. The amendments are aimed at preventing malicious use of the marriage institution for purposes of immigration by concluding sham marriages.

If the marriage registrars become suspicious of a certain couple, an investigation will be started, and if the suspicion is confirmed, they will be able to refuse the registration of the marriage and inform the Department of Justice and Equality about the respective case. Further on a marriage can be considered as a sham marriage in Ireland if: the couple is not able to communicate in one language; the two parties have known each other for a small period of time before applying for marriage; the parties applying for marriage do not know anything about one another; the couple is not living together; the couple does not have any plans as a family. It is also possible to use any other information that provides sufficient grounds for believing that the respective marriage will be a sham marriage.

The amendments also foresee the improvement of information exchange between the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to the suspicion of sham marriages.

Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Equality Ms Frances Fitzgerald stated that in addition to the EU Free Movement rights, the right to marry in Ireland is also protected in the Constitution, but the reality is though, that in some cases these rights are abused, and the abuse of the institution of marriage, for immigration purposes, cannot and will not be tolerated. The Minister also indicated that sham marriages have facilitated human trafficking of women to Ireland with the purpose of concluding sham marriages.

Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and Manager of the HESTIA* project: “Latvia has been addressing the phenomenon of sham marriages and the human trafficking issue related to it at various international events for many years, but this has not provided the desired results – there is still no common understanding regarding sham marriages and their direct relation to human trafficking within the European Union member states. That is why we are truly pleased about Ireland’s understanding and practical actions in solving the sham marriage problem, thus providing a significant contribution to the prevention of human trafficking, including in Latvia.”

History of events:
 
  • 2006: The competent authorities of Latvia identify the growing trend of sham marriage conclusion – citizens of the Republic of Latvia cooperate with foreign citizens living in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Cyprus and other countries in order to organise marriages for other persons without the aim to establish a family (sham marriages), so that citizens of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and other countries could acquire residence permits for living in a member state of the European Union, member state of the European Economic Area, or the Swiss Confederation by bypassing the laws and regulations in force.
  • 2006-2011: trends show that the phenomenon of sham marriages is related to the activities of criminal groups, and there are also signs of human trafficking. Issue of sham marriages are updated on the level of Europol and Eurojust from the Latvian side. Several informative campaigns are implemented in Latvia in order to draw public attention to the negative consequences of sham marriages. The issues of sham marriages and their relation to human trafficking are regularly addressed at cooperation forums, conferences and bilateral meetings of various levels.by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Embassy of Latvia in Ireland.
  • 2011: Latvia makes a recommendation to Ireland to introduce amendments in its legislation by criminalising organisers and facilitators of sham marriages within the framework of the UN Universal Periodic Review on 6 October 2011 in Geneva.
  • 2012: Introduction of amendments to the Criminal Law of the Republic of Latvia by prescribing a new legal provision – Section 285.2 of the Criminal Law “Ensuring in Bad Faith a Possibility to Acquire the Right to Stay in the Republic of Latvia Legally, other Member State of the European Union, Member State of the European Economic Area or Swiss Confederation” that came into force on 1 April 2013. The new regulation provides possibilities to impose criminal liability on persons who recruit people and organise or conclude sham marriages not only in Latvia, but also in other European Union member states, states of the EEA or the Swiss Confederation. The following amount of criminal proceedings have been started in relation to this crime: 7 in 2013, 15 in 2014, and 9 in 2015.
  • 2013: governmental and non-governmental institutions of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Slovakia and Ireland cooperate in order to develop the HESTIA project application on the prevention of sham marriages and human trafficking for the tender to receive co-financing from the European Commission.
  • 2014: On 4 December 2014 amendments to the Civil Registration Act of Ireland come into force, burdening the conclusion of sham marriages or marriages of convenience, as well as civil partnership agreements, thus preventing sham marriages.
  • 2015: implementation of the HESTIA project is started in January. During the course of the project’s activities – in June – representatives of the Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland acknowledged that the HESTIA project is very adequate for the current situation regarding sham marriages and human trafficking, and they expressed their belief in the implemented project’s ability to ensure a general overview and a common understanding regarding the situation.

On 18 August 2015 amendments to the Civil Registration Act of Ireland came into force, providing marriage registrars with more power in the assessment of suspicious applications to marry and the ability to refuse to register a marriage in the case that suspicions about a sham marriage are confirmed.

According to the information provided by the society “Shelter “Safe House””, which provided state-funded social rehabilitation services to victims of human trafficking during the period from December 2007 to June 2015, during this time help was provided to 113 victims of human trafficking, with 59 of the persons having suffered from human trafficking with the purpose of a sham marriage. Portrait of the victim: a woman aged up to 28 years old, elementary/secondary education, no children/ with 1 or 2 children born in an unregistered marriage and being raised by the mother alone.

According to the information provided by the Embassy of Latvia in Ireland, more than 1,600 marriages between citizens of Latvia and third country nationals have been registered in Ireland since 2004. Since 2006, almost 2,000 third country nationals have submitted their documents to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service in order to receive a residence permit on the basis of a marriage with a Latvian citizen (the marriages are often concluded in Pakistan, Nigeria, India or in another European Union member state – Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Sweden – with the residence permit being requested in Ireland). Many of these marriages are concluded with the aim to establish a family and there are no grounds to believe that they could be sham marriages.

 

Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution"(HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.

HESTIA project partners:  Ministry of the Interior (Latvia), NGO "Shelter “Safe House"" (Latvia), NGO "Mittetulundusühing"" "Living for Tomorrow" (Estonia); NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania); Immigrant Council of Ireland (Ireland); Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic (Slovakia); European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland).

Dublin has held the first coordination meeting of the project HESTIA

30.06.2015. In order to discuss the progress of the project HESTIA*, results and conclusions of national and regional round table meetings**, the first project coordination meeting was held in Dublin from 3 to 5 June (Ireland) chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland in collaboration with the Immigrant Council of Ireland. It was attended by 20 project coordinators and researchers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Finland and Ireland.

During the first day of the meeting participants concluded that the project partners have no common understanding of connection between sham marriages and human trafficking, because sham marriages are mainly regarded as the violation of national legal regulation related to migration and residence permits.

Ms Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and the Manager of the project HESTIA: "Having evaluated sham marriages, we concluded that even if a woman is not subject to the exploitation, such a marriage has unintended negative consequences. According to the national regulatory framework of the project partners’ countries, the couple must live in a marriage for at least five years before the marriage can be dissolved. By this time the woman may develop a new relationship in which children are born, but they are legally considered to be the spouse’s children and can be used to bind a woman to sham marriage even more."

Summarizing the views of the member states of the project and different concepts of sham marriages (sham marriage, forced marriage, marriage of convenience, fake marriage, false marriage, bogus marriage, fictitious marriage, exploitative marriage, grey marriage), the participants of meeting agreed that in the framework of the project and until the publication of the project research scheduled for May 2016, the term "human trafficking involving exploitative sham marriage" will be used because right now it reflects the least confusing nature of the problem.

The second day of the meeting was devoted to the acquisition of project research methodology provided by Finnish project partner - HEUNI, which is one of the leading research institutes in the Baltic Sea Region. In order to develop high-quality research, HEUNI project partners offered a single research methodology on the basis of which each partner of the project will develop the national report, reflecting the situation of particular country: national legislation and the legal framework for sham marriages and human trafficking, awareness of nexus between sham marriages and human trafficking analyzing the reasons why the person agrees to go abroad to enter into sham marriages, who are those persons who agree to enter into sham marriages and to become the victims of exploitation.

"In practice human trafficking and sham marriages are difficult to identify, therefore HESTIA project is currently even more topical. There is a need for the description of the situation and problem, which will give a clear answer as to whether the marriages is a form of human trafficking or a mean to involve a person in exploitation, whether it is possible to provide a concrete definition of this phenomenon, whether changes to legislation are required at European level," says L. Stabiņa. "It is expected that the project research will answer the key questions: what are the weaknesses of the system/legislation/administrative procedures that enable trafficking in the context of sham marriages; what are the weaknesses of the system/legislation/administrative procedures that enable trafficking in the context of sham marriages; what can be done to prevent exploitation."

Also Irish Ministry for Justice and Equality noted that a common understanding on this issue will be possible when there will be a clear description of the situation, of what and how happens in the country of origin of the victims and in the country of exploitation. In their view, a comprehensive description of the situation is necessary in order to achieve a common understanding and the research of project HESTIA will provide it.

In order to discuss the topicality of human trafficking and sham marriages, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia as an associate partner of the project HESTIA organized the meeting of the project partners in the Latvian Embassy in Dublin on 5 June. The meeting was hosted by the Latvian Ambassador to Ireland H.E. Gints Apals, Counsellor of the Embassy Ms Vija Buša and Senior Officer of Embassy Consular Section Ms Guna Āboliņa, who presented the experience of the Latvian Embassy in this matter.

Since 2004 in Ireland more than 1,600 marriages between Latvian citizens and third country nationals have been registered. Since 2006 nearly 2,000 third country nationals have submitted documents to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service for a residence permit on the basis of marriage with a Latvian citizen (often the marriage was concluded in Pakistan, Nigeria, India or in another European Union Member State - Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Sweden). Embassy staff found that many of these marriages were concluded with a purpose to create the family and there was no reason to think that they could be sham marriages 

Within the framework of the project during two years a variety of activities are provided: by the organization of discussions of legislators, policy planners and practitioners at national and regional level in each country a comprehensive research of the problem of sham marriages will be prepared; learning methodology will be developed and training will be implemented during which social workers, social educators, workers of educational institutions, media representatives, state and municipal police officers and representatives of non-governmental organizations will be educated; awareness raising campaigns and final conference of the project will be implemented. Overall, during the activities of the project it is planned to involve and address more than 700 thousand members of the society in six European Union (EU) countries. HESTIA project was launched on 1 January 2015 and will last 24 months.

 

*Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.

**National and regional meetings - with the aim to define and solve the problems of sham marriages - were held since this year’s February in HESTIA project partner countries - Estonia, Lithuania, Ireland and Slovakia. 

With the support of the European Commission Latvia and five EU countries have launched an ambitious project to reduce sham marriages

05.02.2015. In order to solve the problem of sham marriages in Latvia and Europe the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) with the support of Directorate General of Home Affairs of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme" has launched a project HESTIA* in activities of which public and non-governmental organizations of six countries - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Slovakia and, Ireland are involved.

Within the framework of the project during two years a variety of activities are provided: by the organization of discussions of legislators, policy planners and practitioners at national and regional level in each country a comprehensive research of the problem of sham marriages will be prepared; learning methodology will be developed and training will be implemented during which social workers, social educators, workers of educational institutions, media representatives, state and municipal police officers and representatives of non-governmental organizations will be educated; awareness raising campaigns and final conference of the project will be implemented. Overall, during the activities of the project it is planned to involve and address more than 700 thousand members of the society in six European Union (EU) countries.

Dimitrijs Trofimovs, the Deputy State Secretary of the MoI: "A sham marriage used for legalization of the residence is an urgent problem for the whole EU, so it is important to look for solutions to reduce this phenomenon in all policy planning and inter-professional levels in Latvia and abroad. Sham marriages create not only uncontrolled migration, but are also a threat to the internal security of the EU Member States. We hope that the results of this project will not be "temporary patch" for the growing problem of sham marriages, but will provide a coherent and effective action of the EU Member States to address sham marriages and human trafficking with the purpose of sham marriages."

Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator and the Manager of project HESTIA: "So far the problem of trafficking in human beings with the purpose of sham marriages has not been studied in any of the EU Member States, there is no information on persons engaged in sham marriages, on their use in other forms of trafficking in human beings, as well as a study has not been made about the laws used for the restriction of this phenomenon in other EU countries. HESTIA project activities - national and regional discussions in five countries, the study, specialist education, and informative activities are a combined set of measures aimed at raising awareness and establishing a comprehensive action in the EU Member States to prevent this form of trafficking in human beings.” L.Stabiņa explains that the meaning of the project name "HESTIA" in the Ancient Greek religion is the goddess of hearth, family, domesticity, who played an important role in the social, religious and political life. This prototype was chosen as a source of inspiration for the project and as an opposition to sham marriages, trafficking in human beings and abuse of people.

The Ministry of the Interior in cooperation with the association “Shelter” “Safe House”” developed a project application in 2013 and after its submission for the targeted call for proposals on the prevention of trafficking in human beings announced by the European Commission (EC) it was one of the 13 projects, which acquired the EC funding. Overall, 76 projects were submitted for the targeted call.

"Our aggregate statistical data shows that since 2007 the association has provided 113 persons with social rehabilitation services of which 59 were victims of sham marriages. From 2010 to 2014 the specialists of the association prepared 27 applications for submission to the court for declaring the marriage not valid from the moment of its conclusion of which 9 are litigated cases. On average, the proceedings lasted for 14-16 months. Last year the telephone operators of the twenty-four hours Trustline - 28612120 - provided 220 consultations for reducing the trafficking in human beings, of which 63 have been cases of sham marriages. This means that people are already interested in prevention of trafficking in human beings and in measures to protect themselves from it. There is still a lot of work that we together with partners invest in informing the society, and also in education of specialists. Our awareness campaigns in recent years have acquired recognition at the international level, and Latvia can be proud of gaining good experience in providing prevention activities, being an example, sharing knowledge with other countries. For prevention efforts to be effective, a continuous work of all involved parties is necessary, so it is a gratification that issues of sham marriages in the framework of this project will be addressed at the international level between both countries of origin of victims and countries of destination,” says Sandra Zalcmane, the Head of the NGO “Shelter “Safe House””.

NGO "Caritas Lithuania" (Lithuania) informs that in 2014 16 pre-trial investigations were initiated, provided assistance to 20 victims of trafficking in human beings.18 persons have been recognized as suspects. The main forms of trafficking in human beings - forced prostitution and involvement in criminal activities.

Presented data by Estonian NGO "Mittetulundusühing" “Living for Tomorrow"" show that during last year 2 people in Estonia were formally identified as victims of trafficking in human beings and one case has been adjudicated in connection with sham marriage.

European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control of the United Nations (HEUNI) reported that Finland has very little information on trafficking in human beings with the purpose of forced marriages or sham marriages. Three of the four identified victims were victims of labour exploitation.

Provided data by the Ministry of the Interior of Slovak Republic show that in 2014 30 victims of trafficking in human beings have been identified, 13 of them are victims of sexual exploitation, 9 of sham marriages, 4 of forced labour, 2 of forced begging, 1 of involvement in criminal activities, 1 of other form of trafficking in human beings . In the case of sham marriages in Slovakia there is a tendency of this form of trafficking in human beings to increase: 2 victims were registered in 2011, 2 victims in 2012, 7 victims in 2013, 9 victims in 2014. In many cases of sham marriages women were forced into prostitution.

An implementation of HESTIA project was launched on 1 January 2015 and would last for 24 months. From 5 to 6 February the first meeting of the representatives of the project’s Member States is organized in Riga in order to discuss HESTIA future activities and plans. The total project budget is 640,000 Euros.

* Project "Preventing human trafficking and sham marriages: A multidisciplinary solution" (HESTIA) is being implemented by Directorate General of Home finance of European Commission (EC) "Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme". Grant Agreement Nr. HOME/2013/ISEC/AG/THB/4000005845.

Straipsniai

2015 M. VIEŠOS PASKAITOS-DISKUSIJOS „PROSTITUCIJA IŠ ARČIAU“ ŠALIES BIBLIOTEKOSE JAV ambasados iniciatyvos Lietuvoje prieš prekybą žmonėmis
  • I istorija

    Mane, trijų mėnesių kūdikį, paliko mama... užaugau vaikų globos namuose... įstojau mokytis, tačiau studijoms labai trūko pinigų... pažįstamas vaikinas pasiūlė vasarą išvažiuoti į Ispaniją padirbėti, sakė reikės skinti apelsinus, darbas nesunkus ir užsidirbsiu pinigų studijoms...kai atvažiavome, man pasakė, jog pamirščiau apelsinus - turėsiu dirbti prostitute... buvau parduota... verkiau, nesutikau... tada mane mušdavo, daužydavo, pririšdavo prie lovos ir prievartaudavo...
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