Dáil Éireann - Volume 662 - 30 September, 2008
Written Answers. - Immigration Procedures.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins Deputy Michael D. Higgins
Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if following the detention of a person (details supplied) at Cloverhill Prison overnight and being strip searched in front of prison officials although the person’s paperwork was entirely in order and the person was merely seeking to travel to Limerick to visit relations, he has apologised to the person in question as well as to the Nigerian Ambassador who has voiced his concerns at the degrading way in which this person was treated upon arrival on Irish soil. [31885/08]
Deputy Dermot Ahern Deputy Dermot Ahern
Deputy Dermot Ahern: I would like to refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 179, which he put down for answer last Thursday, 25 September. In that reply I explained in detail that it is important to  have regard to the legal provisions that govern entry to the State of foreign nationals. In essence, those provisions provide that every person landing in the State, including the holder of a visa, is obliged, pursuant to the provisions of the Immigration Act 2004, to furnish to an immigration officer such information in such manner as an immigration officer may reasonably require for the purposes of the performance of his or her functions. It is also important to emphasise that a visa is merely a permission to present at the frontiers of the State, but it does not guarantee entry to the State. The State’s position in this regard was in fact confirmed by the High Court as recently as 23 May 2008 (Emmanuel Omatayo James & Others -V- Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform).
Section 4 of the Immigration Act 2004, sets out the provisions whereby an immigration officer may give a non-national permission to land in the State. This section of the Act also sets out fourteen different circumstances in which an immigration officer, may, on behalf of the Minister, refuse to give a person a permission to land in the State, any one of which may give rise to a permission to land being refused. In performing his or her functions an immigration officer is obliged to have regard to all the circumstances of the non-national concerned. As I previously informed the House, I am satisfied that the Garda National Immigration Bureau dealt with the case of the person who is the subject of this Parliamentary Question in accordance with these provisions. I also wish to repeat that in the particular case concerned a significant factor in the immigration officer’s decision was that when the applicant was being questioned he claimed he was visiting a named person he identified first as his brother and then as a cousin — when, in fact, they are not related. This fact was established when telephone contact was made with the named person.
Airports by their very nature are extremely busy locations with understandable demands to have passengers processed as quickly as possible. In such circumstances there is a particular pressure on immigration officials to ensure that the safety of the State and integrity of the immigration process is not compromised in any way. I have already informed the Deputy that some weeks before this particular incident arose there was a case at Dublin Airport in which a person purporting to be a cleric, was refused leave to land and subsequently admitted that he was not in fact a priest. Immigration officials have tough decisions to make on a daily basis to protect the State not only from illegal migrants, but terrorists and others who might have ulterior motives.
As regards the committal of the person concerned to Cloverhill Prison on 9 September, I think it is important for the avoidance of any doubt in the matter, that I set out again how he was dealt with while in the custody of the Prison authorities. I am informed that the individual was processed through Reception in line with standard practice and that when he was being searched by prison officers he would not have been in the line of sight of anyone else. Furthermore, he was also treated as all other committals in accordance with Irish Prison Rules. Such searching is entirely appropriate and necessary to ensure the security and safety of the prison and the health and safety of the individual concerned. In line with Standard Operational Procedures, the individual was seen on Landing D1 on the morning of 10 September as a new committal. I previously informed the House that the prison records indicate that the Rules and Regulations were explained to him and a phone card application was issued. No complaints were recorded. The person concerned also received two visitors while in Cloverhill Prison and was discharged to the custody of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on the evening of 10 September 2008.
I have no doubt but that the individual was very distressed by these unfortunate events. However, I want to emphasise that insofar as the Immigration and Prison authorities are con cerned, I am satisfied that all the necessary legal and administrative procedures were fully complied with and that there was no question of any lack of courtesy or respect to the individual at any time.
Dáil Éireann 662 Written Answers. Immigration Procedures.