Pair to be deported over visa error
A YOUNG Bolivian couple who innocently crossed the Border into Northern Ireland believing they could return to the Republic are to be deported to South America today after the Irish authorities refused to grant them permission to re-enter the jurisdiction.
Roberth Moreno Choma (25), and his wife Daniella Fernandez Pacheco (22), had been granted immigration clearance in Dublin to allow them to stay in the country for one month while searching for an English language college at which to enrol.
They had planned to spend Christmas with Ms Fernandez Pacheco's aunt in London and travelled by bus to the North, and then by ferry to Scotland with a view to arriving in the British capital in time for the festive celebrations.
However, they were stopped by the UK authorities as they disembarked the ferry at Cairnryan in Scotland last weekend as they did not have permission to enter that jurisdiction.
Irish authorities have since refused to allow them to return to the Republic on the basis that their permission to be in Ireland lapsed automatically when they left the country.
Lawyers for the couple made a last-ditch attempt in the High Court on Thursday night to allow them return to Ireland. However, in a judgment handed down yesterday morning, the court said permission to be in Ireland automatically lapses when a person leaves the country -- even for a day.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said that it was probably fair to say that they were hapless young travellers who had made an innocent mistake.
The pair were last night being brought to Heathrow where they are due to board a flight back to Bolivia today.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Fernandez Pacheco said they had one month to get all their documentation in order to apply for a year-long visa to study English in Dublin and had no idea they would need a visa to enter the UK from Ireland.
"The police said to me in Cairnryan the UK is another country. They arrest me and my husband. They separate us in the police station. We can't see or talk for two days, it was very, very horrible.
"The policemen are very good but the place is so horrible. I have nothing to do, just four walls."
She said she was mid-way through a four-year economics degree course in Bolivia and received permission to take a year out to travel to Ireland to improve her English.
She must present a certificate showing she has studied the language abroad before she can resume her course.
"Now I have to return to Bolivia without study, without a certificate. I don't know what we will do. We don't have the money to return (to Ireland).
"We sold all our belongings in Bolivia to pay for our flights," she added.
The couple's solicitor Derek Stewart said that, in light of Judge Hogan's comments about them making an innocent mistake, he was still holding out hope that the couple might be allowed to apply to re-enter Ireland.
However, he acknowledged that time was running out.
"They are an innocent couple who didn't realise they needed a visa.
"What I'm trying to find out is if they can present themselves again to the Irish authorities," he added.
Judge Hogan said the situation could also apply to foreign nationals who innocently travelled to the North on their way to Donegal or to foreign tourists who take day trips, for example, to the Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim.