There has been a sharp increase in sham marriages over the past two years, Interior Minister Nikos Nouris said on Wednesday.
Speaking after a meeting of the House legal affairs committee, Nouris said that in 2018 and 2019 about 3,600 suspicious marriages held in Cyprus were referred to the police for further investigation.
“Furthermore, around 1,600 sham marriages were officiated in the same town hall, which raised our suspicions even more,” Nouris said.
He added that the cases referred to the police have also been forwarded to the immigration office but “due to the weak spots in the existing legislation and the sheer volume of the issue, it was impossible to examine and eventually cancel any of those weddings.”
The procedure occurring in sham marriages usually involves EU citizens, often with limited financial resources, falling prey to specialised gangs.
In the past, countries such as Romania and Portugal have complained that their citizens are being exploited by networks who are using them in sham marriages with third-country nationals.
Once the sham marriage takes place, the third-country citizens then register as spouses of a European citizen and both parties go their separate way.
According to police reports released in 2019, the EU nationals who take part in the scam are paid between €500 and €1000, while the networks usually pocket thousands of euros.
“It’s very difficult for us to track down the individuals responsible for organising the sham marriages,” said Nouris.
“Also, after they get married, often the third-country nationals leave Cyprus to go to other countries in Europe. Since our law stipulates that in order to declare a marriage invalid both parties need to be officially interviewed by the authorities, we have no legal grounds to do so.”