IMAGINE being a young holidaymaker arriving from abroad to spend a couple of months with people you met as an au pair two years ago.
Instead of a céad míle fáilte on arrival and looking forward to catching up with old friends, you find yourself arrested and interned without trial overnight in prison.
Docha? Dubai? How about Dublin?
That was the experience of 24-year-old Brazilian Paloma Aparecide Silva Carvalho when she arrived at Terminal 1 in Dublin Airport. Though she had a plane ticket to leave Ireland on September 25 and enough in her bank account to sustain her for the intervening period, she was denied entry to the country even though Brazilians do not need a visa when visiting Ireland for less than 90 days.
She explained to immigration officials that she was going to visit the family she had worked for in 2005 and would be staying with them, as well as visiting friends she had made then. An immigration officer rang the family who confirmed the arrangement. That was when common sense gave way to control-freakery, with frightening consequences.
Ms Carvalho was told she would be put on a plane the following morning to Basle in Switzerland, from where she had flown. She was then taken in a garda car to Mountjoy Prison where she was forced to share a cell with a drunken remand prisoner and she received no explanation from the border control services for such a heavy-handed approach other than the suspicion expressed by immigrantion officials that she was attempting to enter the country to work illegally.
While acknowledging that immigration officials have a right to refuse entry to anyone they reasonably believe to be trying to get into the country illegally, it is incomprehensible that a modern, so-called civilised state should treat foreign nationals is this way.
Ms Carvalho was later released and told she could stay in Ireland for 10 days but not before she endured the indignity of a strip-search and a frightening overnight incarceration with her fellow inmate, who spent the night vomiting.
“The room was very, very small and the toilet was quite close to the bed. It was very, very dirty. It was disgusting,” she told RTÉ’s Liveline radio programme.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “Ireland operates a fair, secure and effective immigration system and, indeed, the Irish immigration system is one of the least burdensome for visitors.”
Try explaining that to Ms Carvalho or the Brazilian government, which has complained to Irish authorities about the rise in alleged cases of mistreatment of Brazilians arriving at Dublin airport.
Try also to explain it to Egyptian authorities who have been roundly condemned by successive governments for their treatment of Ibrahim Halawa, who has been rotting in a Cairo jail for almost four years. While the scale of his horror is immeasurably greater than that endured by the young Brazilian, it is incumbent on us to treat people humanely if we demand fair treatment for our citizens banged up abroad.
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