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More than 1,000 Irish people held in overseas jails

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Student Ibrahim Halawa was detained in Egypt for four years. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Student Ibrahim Halawa was detained in Egypt for four years. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Student Ibrahim Halawa was detained in Egypt for four years. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Three hundred Irish people held in overseas prisons have sought assistance from the State since 2013, the Government has revealed.

"We estimate that, at any time, there are around 1,200 Irish men and women in detention overseas," said Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

Last year, the State provided consular assistance in 53 new cases of Irish people jailed overseas. Eleven people have been helped this year.

However, not every Irish prisoner seeks consular assistance, said the minister.

Complex

"Working with the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), we try to offer support to as many people as we possibly can," he added.

The most high-profile case in recent years was that of Dublin student Ibrahim Halawa, who was detained in Egypt from August 2013 to last October.

Mr Coveney said such a case "can be extremely difficult and complex, and can require the deployment of significant resources over a protracted period".

In a written Dail reply to Independent TD Mattie McGrath, the minister said: "Every case is different and is considered and approached on its own merits.

"Some cases may last only a relatively short time, and the assistance needed may be quite straightforward.

"It is impossible to provide precise statistics for the number of Irish citizens detained or imprisoned overseas.

"In some cases, the individuals involved do not seek any assistance or do not want the Irish authorities to be informed of their situations.

"In other cases, regrettably, local authorities sometimes fail to notify the Irish authorities of the imprisonment of our citizens."

Explaining the help provided, Mr Coveney said: "Our embassies and consulates provide direct assistance through consular visits and practical advice and assistance to individual detainees, and our consular assistance team at HQ provides ongoing support and assistance to the families of such prisoners.

"Support and assistance in all cases is provided on a non-judgemental basis, irrespective of the offence of which the citizen has been accused or convicted."


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