The recent news of a Brazilian woman who was detained overnight in Mountjoy Prison by Garda immigration officers has created waves of outcry from opposition politicians and members of the public. Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho (24) was detained upon arrival in Dublin Airport on 18th July, despite the fact she was non visa required, she had proof of return flights home, and there was no obvious reason for the decision to refuse her leave to land.   Ms Silva-Carvalho was visiting Ireland on holidays, to stay with a Galway family with whom she had worked as an au pair.

Brazilian citizens, like American, Australian, Canadian citizens for example, do not need a visa to visit Ireland for less than 90 days, and therefore do not need to go through a pre entry clearance. This is to facilitate their easy travel to the State for short trips.

The Muller-Wieland family, who are close friends with Ms Silva-Carvalho, having previously employed her as an au pair, desperately sought the help of local politicians and solicitors to fight against Ms Silva-Carvalho’s deportation. Although the effort to stop the deportation failed, gardaí later rang to inform the family that Ms Silva-Carvalho was released from Mountjoy and that she was allowed to stay in Ireland for ten days.

Ms Silva-Carvalho’s traumatic experience with airport immigration control has prompted others to speak out about their similar experiences of arriving in Dublin. One Brazilian woman, who visited Ireland last summer to see her terminally ill grandchild, was left in shock at her treatment by immigration officers, who refused to believe that her daughter and son-in-law could afford to look after her during her stay.

Our offices at Berkeley Solicitors are currently representing a client in the High Court who had a similar experience. She arrived at Dublin airport, having already been granted a visit visa to enter the State. She was refused leave to land on entry to the State for the reason of financial grounds, despite the fact she had already satisfied the visa officer that she and her sponsor had sufficient financial resources to support her for her stay.  At the discretion of the immigration officer she met, she was refused leave to land, imprisoned, and removed to another country where she spent a week in detention, before being returned to her home country. This all happened without access to any legal advices.

Needless to say, this was a shocking and distressing incident for our client, as it was for Ms Silva-Carvalho and others who have gone through similar experiences on visiting Ireland. Furthermore, refusal of leave to land remains a serious incident on a person’s immigration history that would have to be declared for all future visa applications.

We are challenging this decision of refusal of leave to land made by garda immigration officers on the basis that our client had a legitimate expectation that they would be permitted to land, having been issued visas prior to arrival in Ireland. We also argue that immigration control failed to properly regard the evidence before them that showed our clients had sufficient financial support to maintain themselves in Ireland, and that they had already been granted a visa on the basis of sufficient financial resources.

Whether or not a non national carries a visa when entering the State, Immigration officers retain a right to refuse to any non non national under Section 4 (4) of the Immigration Act 2000 for one of a specific list of reasons, such as the non national is not in a position to support themselves or their dependents or “that there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national.”

It is essential that this potentially very wide ranging power is exercised by immigration officers in a very careful and restrained manner.

The fact that those who are refused leave to land do not normally have access to legal representation, and are detained by immigration control in prisons, as opposed to immigration detention centres, has been condemned by the UN Committee on Torture. However, Dublin Airport has announced plans to build a purpose-built immigration detention centre on site, beginning in the Autumn. Although this will not solve every issue in regards to how Irish authorities treat immigrants upon arrival in the country, it will certainly mitigate the ordeal of    persons such as Ms Silva-Carvalho, and our client,  have gone through, where they came to Ireland as visitors, but were treated as criminals and subjected to degrading treatment, often with no sufficient reason given.