Sunday 20 August 2017

Dad's anger after adopted daughter (2) denied visa: 'I'm stopped from seeing my child because of a paperwork mistake'

Barry with Laila and Joudiya in happier times
Barry with Laila and Joudiya in happier times

Kathy Armstrong

A heartbroken Irish dad has claimed a "paperwork mistake" is to blame for his young adopted daughter (2) not being to visit him in Ireland.

Barry Hand and his wife Laila adopted their daughter Joudiya from an orphanage in Morocco when she was just 19 hours old in 2015.

Under Moroccan law the couple must raise their child there but they had hoped to bring her to Ireland to visit Barry's family and friends.

Barry, lives in Kingscourt, Co Cavan for six months of the year for work, and said an initial visit in December 2015 went smoothly but they have been denied permission to bring Joudiya here since.

The 48-year-old told Independent.ie: "We got a holiday visa for her and she came to Ireland, she was only seven or eight months at the time, she came for three weeks with her mammy and granny to meet her Irish relatives.

"It was lovely, we're very family-orientated people.

Barry is desperate for Joudiya to be allowed to visit her Ireland again
Barry is desperate for Joudiya to be allowed to visit her Ireland again

"I stayed as I'm working here but we expected Laila to come again in the March of the next year (2016) and it was refused.

"I suspect it was because Laila ticked the wrong box on the form, she ticked 'Joining Family' instead of 'Visit Family'.

"I know it doesn't sound much but in the bureaucratic world it would mean that she was trying to come and live with me, it's all down to one box I think.

"We've already proven that we abide by the law by bringing her home that time, if we were going to stay then we would have then."

Laila (44) is from Morocco and has worked as a travel rep for the past decade, the couple met when Barry was on holiday there.

Even without the law ruling they must raise Joudiya in Morocco, he explained his wife still would not want to live in Ireland.

He said: "The authorities said we haven't provided significant information showing ties to Morocco but we got letters from Laila's employer, what more do they need?

"Laila is a naturalised Irish citizen and loves it, she's coming here years.

Laila and Barry with Joudiya when she was a newborn
Laila and Barry with Joudiya when she was a newborn

"But when she lived here she got depressed, I watched the smile disappear from her face with the weather and everything, she doesn't want to live here."

He said that after the couple had failed to conceive their own child he thinks meeting Joudiya was their "destiny."

Barry said: "We'd been through a few years of trying to conceive, we'd had two unsuccessful fertility treatments and it left us shattered, it just didn't work for us.

"I came home after our second unsuccessful try, I was in bits about it all.

"Shortly after Laila had been at a local orphanage with her mother donating supplies and they met a woman outside who was going to abandon her newborn baby.

"We'd been years trying and this just felt like destiny, God's work, so we set about adopting her and that was it, I was literally on the plane the next week to start working through the paperwork.

"After seven months of torture we finally became her legal parents."

Barry said that he's living in Ireland while he sets up an online business, which he hopes will give him more time with his young family in the long-term but not being able to have them visit is taking a toll.

He said: "I haven't seen them in nearly five months, it's impossible, before this we hadn't been apart in over a month.

"With Laila being seasonal if she wasn't working she could come here, otherwise I'd go there, we were very close, we'd a great marriage and it worked, now it's tested to the maximum.

"They say that the first six years of a child's life are the most important and I feel I'm missing that, it's what I live for and it's been ripped away from me, it's destroying me."

An emotional Barry appealed for help to allow Joudiya to visit him and her Irish relatives again.

He said: "We abide by the law, I'm sure there's many ways we could have brought her here but we never wanted to do that, we didn't think we'd have to.

"I'm a proud Irishman and I want to fly the flag but this is ridiculous.

"I feel very angry, I'm being stopped from seeing my child because of a paperwork mistake.

"The bottom line is a two-year-old girl is caught in the middle of this, as painful as it is for us she's the one who is most affected."

A spokeswoman for the Adoption Authority of Ireland told Independent.ie that they are "not in a position to further respond to queries on individual cases."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice explained: "The Department does not generally comment on individual visa applications.

"However, it is understood in this case that applications were made in October 2016 and refused. 

"It was open to appeal those decisions within two months but no appeals were made.

"It remains open to the person concerned to make a fresh visa application. The INIS website (www.inis.gov.ie) contains comprehensive guidelines to assist the applicant with the application process.

"Where an application is made by or on behalf of a child, it is important to ensure that the persons travelling with the child are authorised to have the child in their care. 

"If the child is travelling with one or both of his or her parents, it is necessary to ensure that evidence of the relationship is provided. 

"This is normally achieved through the provision of birth certificates and passports. 

"Where the child is travelling with one parent only, it is necessary to provide evidence that the other parent agrees to the child's travel or that the parent caring for the child has sole custody of the child. 

"In the case of an adopted child, evidence of "the legal adoption will be necessary."

They continued to say: "Each visa application is assessed on its own merits. Therefore, all information that the applicant wishes to have taken into consideration should be included where a visa application is submitted. 

"It is strongly advised that the application fully addresses the reasons for the refusal in any new application."

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