An American lawyer investigating allegations of human rights breaches by the Irish government has been refused entry into Ireland.
Matt Schwoebel wanted to take statements from protesters objecting to the construction of the M3 motorway through the Hill of Tara.
He is drafting a complaint to the UN Commission on Human Rights about the way the government has handled objections and treated those who made them. But when he arrived at Dublin Airport, officers from the Garda National Immigration Bureau informed him he would not be allowed into the country.
Mail on Sunday – 29 November 2009
By Neil Michael, Chief Reporter
A LAWYER from the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, has been deported back to the US as he attempted to enter Ireland to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Government. Matt Schwoebel wanted to take statements from protesters objecting to the construction of the M3 motorway through the Hill of Tara. He is drafting a complaint to the UN Commission on Human Rights about the way the government has handled objections and treated those who made them.
When he arrived at Dublin Airport, officers from the Garda National Immigration Bureau informed him he would not be allowed into the country. They told him he might have to stay in a detention centre until his flight home could be booked. Mr Schwoebel claims that before the decision was taken to reject him, he was questioned about where he was going in the country and who he was staying with. The 27-year-old lawyer – who is an American citizen – told them he was going to be staying with a leading anti-M3 Motorway campaigner, Tara Watch’s Vincent Salafia. Shortly afterwards, he was informed he would not be allowed into the country – where he had only planned to stay a week.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “I am not happy with the way I was treated and intend to lodge a formal complaint against the Gardai. I was accused of not having enough funds, despite having several thousands in my debit account and more in credit cards. I also had people to stay with and vouch for me but this was also not enough. It became pretty clear to me that they just did not want to let me into the country.”
According to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, ‘leave to land’ – the phrase which applies to being let pass through immigration control on arrival in an airport – upon arrival in the State is ‘subject to immigration controls on the ground’. As a US citizen, Mr Schwoebel did not need a visa to gain entry. But anyone arriving in the country must be ‘able to satisfy an immigration officer that they have sufficient funds to support themselves during their visit’. Exactly how much cash visitors need to have is not stipulated anywhere on Irish government websites. Nor are there any guidelines which state that credit and debit cards do not count as means of self support.
Mr Schwoebel, who is based at California’s human rights group 2048, arrived in Dublin from San Francisco via Chicago at 8.35am last Monday. He had with him $100 cash, an address to stay in Dublin, cousins and a grandmother living in Ireland, and a staff job with the University of California. After staying in Ireland for a week, he was planning to head to Geneva, where he was due to work with a number of UN officials on organising a human rights conference at the start of December.
When has was asked about where he was going to stay, he mentioned Mr Salafia – a lecturer in environmental legislation at Queen’s University Belfast who lives in south Dublin. He also gave the gardai Mr Salafia’s mobile number and said that he could vouch for him as he was staying with him. Despite saying they would call him, Mr Salafia said last night he did not receive a call from any member of the Garda National Immigration Bureau.
Mr Salafia said last night: ‘”I am ashamed that such an eminent guest was so horrendously treated. Despite offering to withdraw €900 from his own account at an ATM machine – and having the funds to do so – Mr Schwoebel was told not to bother. When he was informed of the decision to block his entry into the country, he offered to buy his own return ticket back to the US but this was rejected. Instead the cost of the flight was picked up by the Irish tax-payer. ‘I had the funds to do so – as in deed I had the funds to support my brief stay in Ireland.’
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2048 Project - University of California, Berkeley