Mixed marriage = permission for screening personal life?

Article published on Feb. 16, 2009
community published
Article published on Feb. 16, 2009
People do marry out of financial and other "rational" reasons - and they have a right to! But all of the sudden, when one of the spouses is from outside the EU, the presumption of guilt is valid: it's a sham marriage unless they can prove it's not. A coincidence - I was reading one of the national Lithuanian dailies, Kauno diena, and cafebabel.
com, and found two stories on the same topic, yet with totally different angles. The issue is mixed marriages with citizens of EU countries and the fact that some people use marriage as a way to stay in the EU. The Lithuanian article was more from the institutional perspective: the journalist was interested in how many international marriages were registered, how many of them were suspected as "fixed", how are such marriages even advertised. The was different: it was from a personal perspective.

story on Café Babel

The debate could go on for ever - why are people resorting to sham marriages in order to be where they want to be, what are the social consequences and so on. What struck me, however, was the way some representatives of the responsible institutions were talking about preventive measures against sham marriages. The person interviewed was explaining how couples where the age difference is very big are double-checked, how people are asked about their relationship, how they met. They are also asked to tell the names of the family members of the spouse-to-be. Also, . After some time passes after the marriage, the couple is sent a questionnaire: have they been living together? have they met each other's family? ?..

if a woman is reluctant to take her fiance's surname, chances that it's a sham marriage are supposedly higherwhat household items have they bought together

I understand that sham marriages are a serious social problem. However, they are a result of desperation and restrictive migration policies. What I want to point out here is that there are many sham marriages for various reasons, not only to get an EU passport. There's no authority to check whether a 20-year-old model married a 50-year-old businessman out of love: nobody sends them questionnaires about visiting each other's family and buying household items. I believe, nobody even has a to screen the private life of two Lithuanians, or a Lithuanian and a German, or two Germans. But when one of the spouses is from outside the EU, all of the sudden the passport issue is more important than the protection of private life. Also, the screening is based on a very classical and traditional idea of a family: family is made of two spouses who live together, buy household items together and participate in the same social networks. If I marry my co-national and leave for an internship in Vienna, we won't be buying household items together for a while, but nobody will have a right to check that. Also, it's a right of every woman to choose whether to keep her own surname, take her husband's surname, or take both. If both spouses are from the EU, it's absolutely fine for everybody, while if the husband is from outside the EU, suddenly the woman's choice not to behave traditionally is regarded as suspicious behaviour. People do marry out of financial and other "rational" reasons - and they have a right to! But all of the sudden, when one of the spouses is from outside the EU, the presumption of guilt is valid: it's a sham marriage they can prove it's not.

right unless

Also, the person from the authorities was warning women against one-sided sham marriages: the man may talk her head off with promises of love, while he only wants an EU residence permit. "In the end, you might stay without a husband and with a surname like Abdullah," - the interviewee was joking. Mixed families in Lithuania already face a lot of prejudice and suspicion. They are gossiped about, and, if the husband is from the Middle East, it's likely that the neighbours will be carefully listening to hear whether he batters his wife and confirms their stereotypes (although, unfortunately, many Lithuanian men do that too). Apparently, these couples can also be legally harassed by immigration authorities to check whether they really have a "traditional family" (living under the same roof, the wife taking the husband's surname).