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Michaella jail transfer was 'never on cards'

IRISH drugs mule Michaella McCollum spent her second Christmas in a Peruvian jail after attempts to transfer here to a prison on this side of the Atlantic were delayed.

During the summer, the British Embassy in Lima said it was "highly likely" the Dungannon girl would be transferred before Christmas, however new laws brought in to allow foreign prisoners to return to jails in their own countries have stalled.

Michaella's mum Nora Connolly said that despite hopes being raised earlier, her return to a prison in the North before Christmas wasn't on the cards.

"It definitely wasn't expected that Michaella would be home before Christmas, unfortunately," she said.

Trafficking

Michaella and Melissa Reid - both aged 21 - were arrested at Lima International airport in August 2013 with 11kg of cocaine in their luggage were sentenced to six years and eight months after they pleaded guilty to drug trafficking.

Intially the two women were held in the Virgin de Fatima prision in the south west of the capital, however, earlier this year they were transferred to Ancon II, which is 42km north of Lima.

The majority of foreign women detained in Peru are held at Ancon and most are there on drugs charges.

Earlier it seemed possible that Michaella could be back home by Christmas.

A request for transfer based on a bilateral Transfer Agreement between Peru and the UK, lodged by Michaella's Belfast-based solicitor Kevin Winters, was accepted by Peruvian authorities by in July.

"As people are aware we applied for Michaella to serve out part of her sentence in Northern Ireland," Mr Winters said.

"There is nothing new to date, the situation remains as it was."

Meanwhile, Peruvian nun Sister Corazon Enricuso, who visits Michaella in jail, said that while foreign girls find it tough in prison at the beginning, the pair have adjusted to life in Ancon II prison.

"They are both very sociable girls," she told the Herald.

Workshops

She said the prison has a library where the women can access courses and workshops like hairdressing, beauty therapy and cookery.

Describing the food as not great, Sr Corazon says that some women receive an allowance from their consul or rely on their families to send them money which they then use to buy some of the food cooked in the culinary classes or items from a tuck shop in the section.

"In a way foreign women are better attended to than Peruvian women in the jails because they have consuls and religious and charitable organisations to take care of them," said Sr Corazon.

hnews@herald.ie


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