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Brides for sale: European women lured for sham marriages

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Family members of Klara Balogova, a Slovakian Roma woman who was lured to travel to Britain for a sham marriage with a Pakistani man, are photographed in their home in a Roma settlement in eastern Slovakia.


Klara Balogova was 18, penniless and heavily pregnant when she rode thousands of miles from Slovakia to England to marry a man she had never met.

She knew he did not want her, or her child. He wanted her European identity card. The marriage was arranged so the 23-year-old Pakistani groom could gain the right to live and work in Europe.

Balogova was promised a clean place to stay in Britain and maybe even some money. But she says within days of arrival, she was moved from Manchester to Glasgow in Scotland, where she was kept in an apartment with her future husband. When he wasn't around, his younger brother would stand over her, and her identity documents were taken away.

"He didn't let me out at any time. He told me it was not possible to go out there," said Balogova, a shy, petite Gypsy woman who spoke reluctantly, never making any eye contact when she was interviewed. "Once a week we went out together. I was never allowed to go alone."

Each year, dozens of women like Balogova, from the poorer corners of eastern Europe, are lured to the West for sham marriages.

The men, who authorities say are often Asian or African, pay large sums because they want to live, work or claim benefits more easily in their chosen country and move freely within Europe. The brokers, often organised criminal gangs, take most or all of the profits. And the women sometimes end up trapped in a foreign country with nothing.

This relatively new form of trafficking comes at a time when Britain continues to tighten its borders, and politicians across western Europe are clamouring for tougher curbs to immigration. Illicit marriages to get around these laws are becoming more common, including direct arrangements between grooms and women as well as the sale of brides.