The Australian High Commission in New Delhi has warned Indian nationals wanting to live permanently in Australia to be aware of organised contrived marriage scams targeting South Asians.

The warning comes after Australian Border Force (ABF) shut down an elaborate contrived marriages syndicate operating out of Sydney, with a 32-year-old Indian national facing court over his alleged role as the main facilitator.

A further four Australian citizens are facing charges for allegedly convincing individuals to fraudulently marry non-citizens seeking to obtain permanent residency. The long-running operation by the ABF also resulted in 164 foreign nationals having their applications for a Partner visa refused after they were linked to the syndicate. None of the participants in this scam obtained permanent residency. Some of these clients paid significant amounts of money, for no immigration outcome, the High Commission said.

While contrived marriages are not unique to any one nationality, this particular syndicate was attempting to illegally facilitate fake marriages with non-citizens in the South Asian community.

These types of scams generally target vulnerable young Australian women, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds. The non-citizens, attempting to enter or stay in Australia, generally pay a significant sum of money to the facilitator.

The ABF has also been successful in combating contrived marriages in Victoria, with one individual sentenced to six months imprisonment for fraud offences against the Migration Act. ABF Acting Investigations Commander Clinton Sims was quoted as saying that the syndicates undermine the integrity of Australia’s visa program and exploit desperate individuals.

“Many of the women involved in these scams have suffered a history of substance abuse, family violence and financial hardship, and are lured in with promises of substantial payments,” Commander Sims said. “Those seeking a visa through a contrived marriage also need to understand that paying a facilitator will not buy them a permanent visa pathway in Australia. There is rarely any financial recourse in the event that their Partner visa application is unsuccessful.”

The ABF is encouraging members of the public who have information about possible visa fraud to report it to ABF’s Border Watch programme. Information can be given anonymously.