Thursday, 17 June 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Proinsias De Rossa: Before I address my Adjournment matter, I wish to point out that one of the statements made by the Minister of State, who is now leaving the House, was not accurate. Single working men and women are not entitled to supplementary welfare allowance for rent.
My Adjournment matter raises very serious issues about how we treat visitors to this country and about how the immigration service responds to legitimate inquiries and representations from Members of the Oireachtas. To put it bluntly, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, should hang his head in  shame at the treatment meted out this week to a Japanese visitor.
Ms Tomoko Tsuchiya was treated more like a terrorist than the tourist she was. She arrived from Tokyo, via Amsterdam, on Monday, 14 June, to visit her friend, Albert Rose. Although Albert lives in Hampstead, he is Irish, and they had planned this trip for a year to be here for Bloomsday. When Tomoko arrived at Dublin Airport she was refused entry, apparently because she had previously been turned down for a visa to visit Albert in the UK. Immigration claimed she was using Ireland as a backdoor to get into the UK, although there was no evidence to back this up and much to suggest otherwise. She was held incommunicado for several hours before Albert found out where she was. He was allowed to speak to her on the telephone but only had time to ask her how she was before the call was terminated. He tried to get her released into his care on Monday but no one would talk to him in immigration.
Mr. Rose contacted my office on Tuesday morning. My office made up to 17 attempts to contact immigration at Dublin Airport, through numbers supplied by the aliens' office and Aer Rianta, without getting a reply over a period of about three hours. The phone was answered four times but was hung up before anything could be said. My office eventually contacted the private office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and asked it to contact immigration, which it did and then told my office that there was nothing that could be done. My office explained that Tomoko was a wealthy professional Japanese woman with a job and a family in Japan. She was here to experience Bloomsday with her friends and had paid for this expensive ten day trip, and requested that she be allowed stay for a few days. The Minister's office said “no.” We then asked for a direct phone number to immigration so that Albert Rose could at least talk to Tomoko, and the Minister's office gave two numbers but there was no reply to either number. On my instructions my office contacted a solicitor who agreed to represent Tomoku. He too had great difficult in getting anyone to answer a telephone but when he did make contact he was told nothing could be done. My office again contacted the Minister's office and asked for another telephone number and after three attempts my office eventually got a reply from the number supplied. My secretary talked to a person, whose name I have but to whom I will refer as Official A. He claimed that Tomoko had admitted that she wanted to live in England with her boyfriend Albert. She denies this emphatically and asked why she would say this when her family were expecting her back to return to work in ten days time. Official A said she was not going anywhere except back to Japan. My office then asked if she would be allowed stay if I, as a Deputy and MEP, could guarantee her return, but the response was in the negative. My office then asked if Albert  could speak to her and the official agreed to this, however official A could be heard saying to a colleague, “keep hold of her, do not let her go up those stairs, keep your eyes on her.” When Tomoko came to the phone, she was confused, frightened and crying. My office asked Official A if Albert could visit her before she was deported, to which he agreed and a brief visit took place. This young Japanese woman who wanted to fulfil a lifelong ambition to visit Ireland for Bloomsday was deported from the land of 100,000 welcomes at 2,30 p.m. on Tuesday.
I have no doubt that the men and women who work in immigration are reasonable and decent people but the regime they are operating in the name of the Minister for Justice. Equality and Law Reform is at best secretive, insensitive and at worst cruel and uncaring.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I appreciate that Deputy, but last week a Member complained that everybody was not being confined to five minutes. The Chair does not have a choice except to implement the Standing Order,
Proinsias De Rossa: I will conclude but I regret that I am not allowed to put all the facts on the record. It seems to me there is an extraordinarily secretive procedure in place in relation to immigration. I urge the Minister and the Government to get to grips with it immediately and make sure that people who come to our shores are treated humanely and not kept incommunicado and that when public representatives ring immigration they are treated with respect and dignity and do not have the phone slammed down on them.
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Deputy on this issue and has asked me to set out the facts of a case which has been reported in a somewhat misleading fashion.
I should begin by pointing out that millions of non-nationals arrive here every year and for most persons immigration clearance is a straightforward matter. However, in a very small proportion of cases further examination is required and in some of those cases the immigration officer may go on to refuse leave to land.
Japanese nationals do not require a visa to travel here. However, all persons, whether or not a  visa is required, must have leave to land upon arrival, when they come from outside the common travel area formed by the UK and Ireland. The decision on whether to grant leave to land is taken by an immigration officer and the grounds for refusal are set out in the Aliens (No.2) Order, 1999. The grounds for refusal and the system generally has many similarities with the regulations in other jurisdictions.
The position in this case is that a Japanese national arrived in Dublin Airport on 14 June from Amsterdam. Inquiries made with UK Immigration revealed that she had been refused entry at Heathrow and removed to Japan on 16 July 1998. She had subsequently been refused an entry clearance, which is a form of pre-entry approval for persons intending to remain in the UK for more than a short visit, from the UK authorities in Tokyo on 29 April 1998. Her Irish boyfriend was present to meet her in Dublin, having flown from the UK on the same day to do so.
The immigration officer, who in common with most immigration officers is a member of the Garda Síochána was satisfied that it was her intention to avail of the absence of immigration control from Ireland to the UK to return there, thereby breaching the common travel area and subverting the UK controls. The Minister has informed me that she admitted to an immigration officer that she intended going to the UK. On this basis the immigration officer refused her leave to land on the grounds of the intention to travel to the UK in circumstances where she would not have been admitted had she arrived there directly and also on grounds of her intention to deceive regarding the purpose of the visit. As I have said, this decision is a matter for the immigration officer and not one in which the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or his Department has a formal role. However, the Minister has asked me to say that it appears to have been a well-founded decision and one arrived at in a reasonable fashion. It has been suggested that the person was visiting Ireland to celebrate Bloomsday. I understand that, while this claim was first mentioned at an advanced stage in the incident, the Garda immigration officer concluded that her primary purpose was to enter Ireland to enable her to enter the UK more easily.Solicitors acting on behalf of the persons in question as well as Deputy De Rossa's office were in contact with the Minister's Department during the course of these events and the Minister is satisfied that they were kept apprised of developments in the matter. The person's boyfriend was given an opportunity to speak to her on the phone and also to meet her prior to her return.
Maintenance of the common travel area is a matter of important public policy as the ease of movement it gives to Irish and UK national is essential to interaction between the two jurisdictions. If it is to survive, however, it follows that persons not entitled to avail of it do not use it to evade immigration controls generally. For this reason, immigration officers are empowered to  refuse leave to land if they are satisfied that the persons intend to travel whether immediately or not, to the UK and that they are not acceptable to UK immigration. A reciprocal power is available to UK immigration officers to deal with persons who attempt to enter the UK in order to reach Ireland and where such persons would not qualify for admission here.
While the Minister accepts that the Deputy may be unhappy about the situation which arose in this case, he hopes that he will accept that the matter was handled in a reasonable way in all the circumstances.
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