Cypriot authorities have vowed to crack down on fake marriage scams involving their country, after police on Wednesday arrested 11 Romanian women who had flown to the island to marry non-EU citizens in exchange for money so the men can get legal EU residence.
Cypriot authorities in collaboration with Interpol arrested the women as they arrived at Larnaka airport in Cyprus, Balkan Insight reported.
They had flown to the island to marry non-EU citizens they had not met in exchange for money, enabling the foreign nationals to gain legal residence and freedom of movement in the EU, media reported, quoting Cypriot news site Sigma.
Cypriot police said the women admitted to receiving bribes of between 700 and 1,000 euros to travel there and enter a fake marriage. Ten of the arrested women have been deported to Romania while the tenth woman is still being investigated and is the suspected mastermind of the scheme.
Sigma reported that intermediaries target poor women in EU member states offering them cash to marry non-EU citizens who want to settle in the bloc. Cyprus became an EU member in 2004.
The fake brides can sometimes get up to 10,000 euros for agreeing to these sham marriages, although part of the money is likely to go to intermediaries involved in the scheme.
The issue has also concerned Portugal, and reportedly Latvia – that blamed Cyprus of not taking enough measures to clamp down on the sham marriage networks operating on the island and which exploit their citizens for sham marriages with third-country nationals, Cyprus Mail reported.
According to Sigma, the women commit to stay married for at least two years, and must be available during that time in case police check whether the marriage is authentic.
Romania along with Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and they are the poorest members and targeted by people recruiting for these rings.
Cyprus Interior Minister Nikos Nouris was quoted as saying the country’s laws would be changed to prevent fake marriages.
“We have received serious warnings from European government, especially from Romania, a country from which it seems the brides who marry citizens from, Asia and Africa mostly, come,” Nouris was quoted as saying by Kathimerini.
The Cypriot press reported that the beneficiaries of the fraudulent marriages usually move from Cyprus to other EU countries. The fake brides are often already married in their countries of origin.