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High Court judge orders inquiry into detention of Chilean woman who arrived in Ireland this month

The woman claims she arrived in Ireland to take an online language course.

Dóchas women's prison where the woman is being detained.
Dóchas women's prison where the woman is being detained.

A HIGH COURT judge has directed an inquiry into the ongoing detention of 33-year-old Chilean woman who has been kept in solitary confinement in the female section of Mountjoy Prison.

The inquiry was ordered into the detention of Estefany Carolina Alquinta Gonzalez who came to Ireland earlier this month to commence a six month course with a Dublin Language School to study English.

However, on her arrival at Dublin Airport she was detained by immigration officials and was denied entry to the state on the grounds that she represents a real and immediate threat to the fundamental policy interests of the State.

Chilean citizens do not require a visa to visit Ireland.

She was committed to the Dochas Centre and was kept isolated from other prisoners due to Covid-19 regulations. The court heard that she has tested negative for the virus.

However, Gonzalez, represented by Rosario Boyle SC, with Aoife McMahon Bl instructed by solicitor Wendy Lyon, claims she does not pose any threat to either the states security or public policy interests.

At the High Court today, Mr Justice Charles Meenan ordered an inquiry into Gonzalez’s detention under Article 40 of the Constitution.

In her proceedings against the Prison Governor, Gonzalez seeks an order from the court that she be immediately released from detention.

Directing the inquiry, following an application that was made ex-parte, the judge said that evidence had been given to the court that prior to coming to Ireland Gonzalez had been in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He said Gonzalez had a conversation with an official in that department as to whether she would be allowed enter Ireland in order to complete her course, even though her courses were to be delivered online.

The judge said the student claims that the DFA official advised her that she would be allowed enter the state if her travel documents were valid.

The documents she was told to bring include her passport, letter from the college she hopes to attend, and proof that she has sufficient funds to support herself.

Gonzalez claims that she had all those documents with her when she arrived in Dublin, as well as proof of funds.

The judge said the the matter is returnable to tomorrow morning’s sitting of the court.

Counsel for Gonzalez told the court that she has travelled around Europe in recent years and has always complied with the terms of visas issued to her.

Prior to coming to Ireland on 2 July last, she had been staying in Denmark and while her visa to stay there was due to expire in early July she was prevented from leaving that country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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On arriving in Dublin she provided immigration officials with her documentation, proof of funds and a copy of her communications with the DFA, and said that she had booked accommodation in Co Roscommon where she planned to self isolate for two weeks.

However, Gonzalez was denied entry to the state. She claims she was told by the officials to return to Denmark, as no student visa were being given as the schools were shut.

She also claims that she was informed that she could not enter as a tourist as she wanted to come into Ireland as a student.

She claims she told officials that while courses were being given online she wanted to remain in Ireland until classes opened, but immigration officials denied her permission to enter the state, arrested her and detained her.

In separate judicial review proceedings which Ms Gonzalez intends to bring against the Minister for Justice and Equality the student seeks an order quashing the decision refusing her permission to enter the state.

She also seeks an injunction, pending the outcome of her action, preventing the Minister from deporting her.

About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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