Romania and Portugal have complained to Cyprus over the apparently rampant phenomenon of sham marriages between EU citizens from other states and third-country nationals with the involvement of people traffickers, it emerged on Wednesday.
The problem has been around for years and despite past pledges that it would be stamped out, it continues to tarnish the island’s reputation.
An interior ministry spokesman confirmed reports regarding the complaints.
“We know of the notes verbales on the matter by certain embassies, but we are examining all cases and not just focusing on these countries,” Loizos Michail said.
Tackling the issue is part “of the holistic approach and policy the interior minister wants to implement in relation to migration.”
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris will present his proposal to the cabinet next week and sham marriages will be included, he added.
The complaints to the foreign ministry concern the exploitation of women who need money, apparently by trafficking rings, which convince them to travel to Cyprus to hold fake marriages with third-country nationals who work or study on the island.
The weddings are conducted by municipalities, which see them as a source of income.
In 2017, then interior minister Socratis Hasikos, pledged to crack down on the phenomenon but more than two years later it was still going strong, despite numerous arrests by the police.
At the time, Hasikos had held a meeting with the municipalities of Aradippou, Livadhia, Ypsonas, and Lysi, which officiated over the largest number of civil marriages.
“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.