THREE members of a Pakistani family found with forged identification cards while living in Ballyhaunis appeared before Claremorris District Court recently. Mr Amjad Iqbal, his wife, Farhat Roohi, and their 27-year-old daughter, Hira Iqbal, all pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing a false instrument. Garda Pauline Murray told the court that as part of a wider investigation about sham marriages, called Operation Vantage, on November 15, 2015, she was asked to examine documents at 10 Sherwood Avenue, Clare Road, Ballyhaunis.
“I called to the house, where I was handed three Dutch ID cards, and they had the three [above-mentioned] names on them,” Garda Murray said.
“The three persons present said they were looking for asylum in the country. Amjad admitted that he had obtained the ID cards in the UK, where they had been living for a number of years. They had made an application in the UK under EU treaty legislation, but had failed and [subsequently] made their way to Ireland through Northern Ireland,” Garda Murray told the court.
Judge Mary Devins was told that Mr Ibqal had paid £400 for the fake cards. A fourth person, his son, was the recipient of a card also, but he was not being charged.
Solicitor for the accused, Ms Cathy McDarby told the court that Amjad had been a hotel manager in his native Pakistan, but after a business venture went wrong, his creditor demanded that he marry his daughter Hira as a repayment for the debt. In desperation, the family fled to the UK.
“They didn’t actually use the false IDs when they came into Northern Ireland,” Ms McDarby said.
She stated that Hira, who is a qualified beauty therapist with perfect English, was studying for a computer-science degree in the UK when they left. Her father had a bypass operation in 2004 and her mother, Farhat, suffered a heart attack last year. Ms McDarby said that the family now live in the Mosney Direct Provision centre in County Meath, and like all asylum seekers, cannot work and live on €19.10 per week.
Under questioning by Judge Devins, Hira told the court that it was on the advice of their solicitor that they had made ‘a human rights application, and not asylum’, when in the UK.
“This was rejected several times and we went to the High Court in 2015. Our solicitor then advised us to come to Ireland and fight our asylum case here.”
Cognisant of how a conviction may have an impact on their application, Judge Devins adjourned the case for 12 months for an update on their status at the court of May 1, 2018.