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The Irish government is to launch a crackdown on sham marriages of convenience in order to aid non-EU residents in gaining passports.

Reports say that new laws are being drafted to tighten control on the number of non-nationals marrying EU citizens just to secure residency.

Irish police have seen a recent upsurge in the practise, with Eastern European women being offered as much as $13,000 to get married in Ireland.

The Irish Independent
reports that immigration officials are concerned at a fresh surge in apparent marriages of convenience.

The number of applications for residency in Ireland based on marriage fell in 2011 but the paper says the latest unpublished figures show a rise for the first half of this year.

Officials acknowledged to the Irish Independent that a ‘significant portion’ of the marriages are organised solely to secure residency rights.

The paper says the Irish government is planning to take tough action as part of a European-wide clampdown.

Government officials say they have noticed increases in the applications involving Pakistanis and partners from the Baltic States.

New statistics for the first six months of 2012 show there were 76 applications involving Pakistanis and Latvians, compared with 114 for all of last year.

The report says that in the suspected sham cases, the men have predominantly been Pakistanis marrying Latvian women.

The number of residency applications based on marriage to an EU citizen dropped from 1,939 in 2010 to 1,617 in 2011.

The figure for the first six months of 2012 has jumped to 960, equivalent to the 2010 level.

The stats show that one-third of the 1,617 applicants last year were to marry a Latvian or Lithuanian national.

The proposals to change the law are included in a new immigration residence and protection bill.