Sham marriages become more and more popular in Europe; refugees may also become victims of human trafficking
Latvian legislation prescribes that a person shall be held criminally liable for deliberately carrying out actions that ensure third-country nationals with legal possibilities to acquire the right to stay in a EU member state. Sham marriages have proven to be the best way to do so. In order to find out how this devastating phenomenon is being fought against in the conditions of increasing migration, “Apollo” talked to Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (Ministry of the Interior) and Manager of the HESTIA* project.
People become victims of human trafficking due to a lack of language knowledge and not knowing their rights
On 22 September 2015 during the meeting of the Ministers of Interior of the European Union a decision was made that Latvia will have to accept an additional 281 asylum seekers, therefore now the total number of asylum seekers that have to be accepted has reached 531. One of the problems in the context of the refugee crisis is also related to human trafficking, and it could increase, as refugees form one of the main risk groups. Since 18 October, which is known as EU Anti-Trafficking Day, is getting closer, “Apollo” wanted to find out how topical the respective problem is and what is being done to prevent it by talking to Lāsma Stabiņa, National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator (Ministry of the Interior) and Manager of the HESTIA* project.
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.
The meeting of the Informal EU Network of National Rapporteurs or Equivalent Mechanisms (NREMs) on Trafficking in Human Beings was held in Brussels on 9-10 June 2015. The meeting was co-organised and co-chaired by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator. Mr Dimitrijs Trofimovs, Deputy State Secretary, Director of Sectoral Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior on behalf of the Latvian Presidency addressed participants of the meeting informing that elimination of trafficking in human beings is defined as a priority of European Security Agenda to combat organised crime. He highlighted that tackling the growing problem of sham marriages is important to the Latvian Presidency and it is has therefore been selected as one of the main themes of the meeting.
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.
Participants of HESTIA meeting agreed on the use of terms “piespiedu laulības” and “forced marriages” within the context of human trafficking
Aiming at achieving common understanding of the sham marriage phenomenon and its direct link to human trafficking, on March 19, the Ministry of the Interior and non-governmental organisation “Shelter “Safe House”” organised a national round table meeting within the framework of HESTIA* project, in which 26 representatives from the government, local government and non-governmental sector participated. During the meeting, participants discussed the concept of sham marriage, its use in Latvian and English language, previous experience of experts and specialists, identified issues in resolving the cases of human trafficking with an intent to enter into a sham marriage, as well as necessary preventive measures to reduce the spread of sham marriages in Latvia and European Union.
To discuss the further activities of HESTIA project, the representatives of all countries participating in the project — 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 Interior of the Slovak Republic (Slovakia),European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI) (Finland) — gathered for the first meeting that took place on February 5-6 in Riga. Associated partners of the project: State Police (Latvia), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Latvia), Department of Justice and Equality (Ireland).
With the support of the European Commission Latvia and five EU countries have launched an ambitious project to reduce sham marriages
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.