GAA Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador Abood Al Jumaili was due to fly to Atlanta to coach children
An Irishman has described the moment he was barred from boarding a flight to the US by American border officials, who he alleges said it was “because he was born in Iraq”.
Hurler Abood Al Jumaili, who is a GAA Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador, had been set to fly to Atlanta, Georgia from Dublin with Delta Air Lines on Wednesday.
Mr Al Jumaili had been set to coach American kids GAA, as well as play some hurling matches and appear at speaking engagements.
Despite being an Irish citizen travelling on an Irish passport and not owning an Iraqi passport, he says he was sent an email ahead of travel saying his Esta visa waiver had been rejected and he would be unable to travel to the US.
The hurler - who is also known as Bonnar O’Loinsigh - says he then went to Dublin Airport to try and sort the matter out, where CBP officials once again refused to let him through US immigration.
Dublin Airport has “preclearance” for the US border, operated by the federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, meaning flyers to the US go through the immigration process before the flight.
“A series of events was organised by the Irish in Atlanta and the GAA Network personnel. Something I have been looking forward to all this month,” Mr Al Jumaili said.
He says he was excited “to visit America, play my beloved sport (hurling) and do talks and coach American youth GAA, share my journey with them and meet with several Irish and American organisations.”
“I received an email to say that I have been rejected entry to the US because I was born in Iraq, even though I am an Irish citizen,” he said.
“I was shocked and still am. A mission that I have been preparing myself for and looking forward to denied because of where I was born?”
Mr Al Jumaili came to Ireland from Baghdad as a nine-year-old in 2008. He was made an Irish citizen in 2010 and has never lived in or visited Iraq as an adult.
“I was in the airport looking at all these passengers getting through with their Irish passport. I’m there as an Irish citizen, yet I am denied to travel because of where I was born. It really is appalling and insulting,” he added.
He had arranged an Esta visa waiver ahead of the trip.
Although US immigration policy states that no one who has been to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen on or after 1 March, 2011 qualifies for an Esta, Mr Al Jumaili says he has not been back to Iraq since leaving in 2008.
However, the CBP website also states: “Important notice! Travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
“Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.”
Mr Al Jumaili says he is an Irish citizen and should not be discriminated against due to his birthplace.
“I believe it is totally unethical to have such a policy in place,” he says.
“Someone’s country of birth or nationality should not determine their entry to a specific country or any country.
“This policy is not compliant with human rights and contrary to the rule of law.”
He says Delta Air Lines has been helpful in trying to help him sort out the visa confusion.
Philadelphia congressman Brendan Boyle also tweeted the sportsman, saying: “Abood - my staff and I are investigating this and trying to resolve for you to get over here.”
The Independent has approached the Customs and Border Protection agency and Delta Air Lines for comment.