Ten women denied entry over sham marriage fears

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Ten women have been denied entry into Cyprus and are currently being held at Larnaca airport after a tip-off claimed they were to engage in sham marriages with third-country nationals.

The women, all EU nationals, landed in Larnaca on Sunday evening and are currently being detained at a facility in the airport.

Reportedly, five of the women told police that another person had paid for their tickets and they were promised money to engage in sham marriages.

Another four women told the police that a compatriot had purchased their tickets for them.

Although authorities did not announce their nationality, police sources told the Financial Mirror that all of the women were on board a flight from Romania.

After being interviewed, authorities evaluated that they were not victims of human trafficking but were denied entry to the country on evidence that they had intentions of committing a crime.

Police sources told the Financial Mirror that the most likely scenario is that the women will be sent back to their country of origin.

Last month, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris talked of a sharp increase in sham marriages.

He said that many third-country nationals who came to the island to study ended up seeking asylum while sham marriages were also used as a vehicle to secure residence.

The Minister had said that in 2018 and 2019 about 3,600 suspicious marriages held in Cyprus were referred to the police for further investigation, with 2,000 of them taking place in 2019.

He hinted at unlawful participation of municipalities saying that “around 1,600 sham marriages (within two years) were officiated in the same town hall, which raised our suspicions even more”.

The government could revoke the power of town halls to conduct civil weddings if they are found to have sanctioned illegal sham marriages used as a way to stay in Cyprus.