Thursday 8 December 2016

€1m legal bill after Pamela and girls finally deported

Dearbhail McDonald and Breda Heffernan

Published 20/07/2011 | 05:00

Pamela Izevbekhai pictured in Sligo with her daughters Jemima and Naomi in 2008
Pamela Izevbekhai pictured in Sligo with her daughters Jemima and Naomi in 2008

THE Government and five legal teams that represented failed asylum seeker Pamela Izevbekhai have been left with "staggering" legal bills totalling more than €1m that will never be repaid.

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The Nigerian mother's controversial six-year legal battle to stop her deportation ended yesterday when she was arrested at 1.30am and, with her two daughters, Naomi (10) and Jemima (9), placed on a 6am flight out of Dublin Airport to Amsterdam.

The State has been left with a legal bill of €370,000 for defending the case in the High Court, Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Ms Izevbekhai's own legal bill, which her fifth and final solicitor Matthew Ezeani admitted would never be paid, is estimated to be in excess of €700,000, bringing the entire cost of the case to more than €1m.

There is no prospect of the State or any party recovering any of the costs amassed over more than two dozen court hearings.

The Department of Justice last night said it did not intend to reform the system to prevent a repeat of the Izevbekhai case.

Investigations

It said fraud was usually weeded out in the early stages of refugee investigations and insisted that the burden of proof to establish asylum status lies at all times with the person seeking it.

Ms Izevbekhai and her daughters arrived in Nigeria last night after they were transferred to an afternoon flight to Lagos from Amsterdam.

She was staying at Globe House, an asylum centre in Sligo, with her daughters when she was arrested.

The cost of yesterday's deportation was €2,800. Mr Ezeani said the removal had been a "harrowing experience" for the family.

The deportation brings an end to Ms Izevbekhai's six-year campaign to remain in Ireland.

She had claimed her daughters' lives were at risk in Nigeria as they would be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). Ms Izevbekhai said she had already lost her first daughter, Elizabeth, to FGM.

However, the final hurdle preventing the family's deportation was cleared last month when the European court ruled Ms Izevbekhai had failed to substantiate that the girls could face a real and concrete risk if sent back to Nigeria.

Her case garnered huge media attention when, in 2005, she went into hiding for several weeks to avoid deportation. Her daughters, then aged five and three, were taken into care. She was later arrested when she went to visit the girls.

Ms Izevbekhai enjoyed widespread public support -- including that of Justice Minister, Alan Shatter -- up to two years ago when garda investigators travelled to Nigeria and discovered she was using forged documents in her court case.

In 2009, the Irish Independent disclosed that members of the garda's national immigration bureau obtained affidavits showing that her claim that an obstetrician in Lagos delivered her baby Elizabeth in February 1993 and treated her before she died from complications after female circumcision were false.

Obstetrician Joseph Unokanjo said an affidavit allegedly sworn by him was a forgery. He reported he had delivered Pamela's daughter, Naomi, in 2000 and this had been her first pregnancy.

A separate affidavit confirmed that Elizabeth's "death certificate" was also a fake.

Following the disclosure, Ms Izevbekhai admitted the papers were forgeries and the State argued that her case should be dismissed on the grounds it had proceeded on a lie.

Ms Izevbekhai went on to pursue her case in the European Court of Human Rights, which also ruled against her.

Irish Independent

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