Wednesday 21 November 2018

'It was awful' - Young au pair strip-searched and jailed after arrest at Dublin Airport

'Paloma was visibly distressed and it was obvious she hadn’t slept and had cried all night'

Dublin Airport (Stock image)
Dublin Airport (Stock image)

Cillian Sherlock

A young Brazilian woman has told of her distressing 48-hour ordeal of being detained in prison by immigration officers who believed she was entering the country to work illegally.

Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho (24) from São Paulo was travelling from Basel, Switzerland to visit friends in Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One's Liveline, Paloma said she had previously worked in Ireland for 18 months as an au pair to the Muller-Wieland family in Moycullen, Co Galway.

She was travelling to visit the Muller-Wieland family and friends.

The young woman was arrested by immigration officers in Dublin Airport at around 4pm on Tuesday.

She was subsequently transported to Dóchas prison where she was subjected to a strip search and detained in a cell.

Karin Muller-Wieland’s husband was contacted by immigration officers to confirm Paloma’s story that she would be staying with their family, but immigration officers ultimately decided to send her to the prison.

"It took a long time to get in touch with a superior at the immigration offices but I was told Paloma was being denied access to the country," Karin told RTÉ’s Liveline.

Karin discovered Paloma was being transported to Dóchas Prison, where she arrived at 6pm.

Paloma said she was told she was being transported to accommodation but realised she was in prison when they told her to leave everything behind and take off her clothes to make sure she wasn’t concealing anything inside her body.

"A woman told me ‘don’t be so upset’ but it was impossible. I was somewhere I did not belong," she said.

She was told she would be sent back to Brazil at 3pm on Thursday and that she was allowed to make one six-minute phone call to her fiancé in Switzerland who then contacted Karin.

Paloma said she shared a room with another female inmate who was continuously vomiting, making the bathroom sink unusable.

"The smell was horrible. It was awful," she said.

Karin said she was distraught and terrified that she was not able to contact Paloma or keep her safe.

"Paloma is like a family member, we’re very close, she’s like a sister to me," Karin said, "I was so distraught, the children were crying. We had spent all day getting her room ready – picking flowers and wrapping presents."

Karin said Paloma’s mother was 'hysterical' on the flight to her.

"She was hysterical on the phone, she was sobbing and having a panic attack and I could give her no assurance," she said.

The next day Karin managed to contact a solicitor in Dublin to argue Paloma’s case at the Four Courts, but she still needed Paloma to sign documents.

The family travelled from Galway to get documents from the solicitor before meeting Paloma in prison.

"Paloma was visibly distressed and it was obvious she hadn’t slept and had cried all night," she said.

Although they were able to get the necessary documents returned to the solicitor before 4pm, he was unsuccessful in arguing her case.

"She was not given a due right for a course of justice at all. He battled until 6 o’clock but failed on the basis of insufficient time to gather evidence. This type of appeal can take up to eight months. I thought we had lost her," she said.

A major concern for Paloma was that once she was deported she would have difficulty in attempting to enter any other country in Europe.

"At that point I broke down, felt so ashamed and saddened that I’m representing a country where I can’t keep my guest safe and that a 24-year-old woman is twice asked to strip down like a criminal. It’s appalling," Karin said.

However, Paloma was then suddenly released at around 10pm at Dublin Airport and given permission to stay in the country for two weeks.

"I am deeply grateful to community and politicians who ultimately affected this release," said Karin.

Criminal defence lawyer Tony Collier said he was not an immigration specialist but had experience with people who were detained on immigration issues.

Mr Collier also told Liveline said the Garda National Immigration Bureau will deny calls from solicitors to detainees because they weren’t specifically requested by the detainee, even though the solicitor is often arranged by a concerned family member or friend.

"If she had been given access to legal advice in the beginning all of the indignities that went with detainment and prison could have been avoided," Mr Collier said.

He said these people are often a significant disadvantage and there is no entitlement to a solicitor if you are detained on immigration matters.

Paloma said she is having difficulty sleeping and is having flashbacks of her ordeal.

"I am trying to feel better now with the family who are supporting me a lot," she said

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