Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos pledged on Thursday that he would take on the responsibility of bringing the number of sham marriages under control and did not blame the municipalities where it was most rampant.
Hasikos spoke of new “drastic prevention measures” emanating from the immigration department, which comes under his ministry that will include grilling any couples that involve an EU citizen and a third-country national.
Following a meeting with the municipalities of Aradippou, Livadhia, Ypsonas and Lysi, which officiate over the largest number of civil marriages, Hasikos said that the past three years many sham marriages had taken place in Cyprus.
“The issue has taken on huge dimensions. We are talking about marriages of Europeans with third-country nationals. There is also an issue of human trafficking. It seems that there are rings that promote such marriages,” Hasikos said.
Last year, he said, the immigration department denied entry to 68 people when it emerged they had arrived to Cyprus to enter into a sham marriage.
It was the interior ministry’s obligation to take measures, in cooperation with the police and the mayors, he said. “In Nicosia for example, of the most recent 200 marriages between European and third country nationals, 12 were deemed to be a sham,” Hasikos said.
He said it raised the question of who was responsible; the municipalities who base their decisions on certifications given by the immigration department, or the department itself, and thus the interior ministry.
“And as I do not want to blame the municipal councils, I would say the greatest responsibility lies with the immigration department of the interior ministry that issues the certificates. And I have no problem whatsoever in taking on this responsibility,” Hasikos said.
He said efforts should be now focused on prevention, before the immigration department issues certificates of freedom that allow couples to marry.
Hasikos added that “drastic prevention measures” would now be taken before issuing the certificates.
A joint interview would be carried out with the couples to find out “do they speak the same language? Do they understand each other? When did they arrive to Cyprus and for how long? Has one of them arrived today for the marriage and will leave right after? We have found such cases,” Hasikos said.
Officials, before issuing certificates, will also investigate how long both would-be partners had been in Cyprus and if they were employed on the island. “All these will be checked,” Hasikos said.
Police last year investigated dozens of cases involving sham marriages, usually women from European countries and men from third countries. In a number of cases it was discovered that the women had been trafficked.