Algerian who found himself in situation similar to "The Terminal" film is awarded legal costs
AN Algerian who found himself in Ireland in what a judge described as a predicament similar to the central character in the film "The Terminal" has been awarded the costs of a legal challenge he took over his situation.
Last year, Nacer Benloulou was extradited here from France, where he had lived since 1984, on a charge of having been illegally resident in Ireland at some previous time.
He was acquitted of all charges, released from prison, found himself homeless and unable to get the papers he needed to return to France, the High Court heard.
He was "not unlike the ill fated Mr Navorski" played by Tom Hanks in The Terminal, Mr Justice Max Barrett said in a reference to the film's main character who found himself trapped in New York's JFK airport after he was denied entry to the US and was unable to return to his own country due to a revolution.
The judge said Mr Benloulou, because he had no connection with Ireland, found himself without shelter, food, money, medication, transport and without the possibility of returning to France following his release from prison.
He had originally move to France holding a valid "carte de séjour" which entitled him to stay there.
When he sought to return there, he was apparently told by Air France it could not fly if his only form of identification was the French residency permit, the judge said.
The French Embassy was unable to assist him with suitable travel documents and he was unable to access diplomatic or consular assistance from Algeria as they do not have an embassy here.
"To cap all of this, the Irish authorities denied they had any responsibility to facilitate Mr Benloulou's return to France", he said.
He found himself "trapped in a place where he did not want to be, unable to go where he wanted to be and, as his acquittal (on the charges he was extradited on) demonstrates, all through no fault of his own".
Things were so bad that his solicitor, who was to be applauded, lent him some money to tide him over, the judge said.
Meanwhile, his lawyers applied for a High Court order that he should be facilitated by the Minister for Justice in ensuring his return.
The case was effectively settled when a Department of Justice official "wrote a letter of considerable humaneness" saying normal conditions for a temporary travel document would be waived. He flew back to France on August 11 last.
His lawyers then applied for the costs of the case but the State opposed it.
Mr Justice Barrett, ruling he was entitled to the costs, said the bringing of High Court proceedings was "clearly a critical factor" in achieving his return.