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'I felt as if I have done a crime': Pakistani man says immigration officials read personal texts to his wife to verify his relationship

The Imigration Council of Ireland said the whole system needs an overhaul.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE IMMIGRANT COUNCIL of Ireland (ICI) has called on the Government to perform a total overhaul of the current immigration system, a process which the council says has been shown up for its ineptitude during the Covid-19 crisis. 

The council’s CEO, Brian Killoran, said that the system is crippled by inconsistencies and needless delays in applications for those attempting to make Ireland their home. 

He said that recent Covid-19-related disruptions have only magnified pre-existing cracks in the administration. Killoran argued that the new Department of Justice, with Helen McEntee in charge, has the chance to completely revamp the current setup.

“Time and again we hear from clients who face inconsistencies, discrepancies and delays in their application. Problems then come when they legitimately apply for visa renewals or even citizenship applications and get penalised for delays which weren’t their fault,” Killoran said.  

Away from the administrative issues which the ICI says is plaguing the current system, Killoran described how many people who are legitimately returning to Ireland are being grilled by airport staff over their relationships. 

In one instance, a Pakistani man returning home from Poland said he was forced to show his history of messages with his wife to prove he was in a relationship with her. 

A case study supplied by the ICI explained Ali’s story. A Pakistani national who has been a legal resident of Ireland for 10 years, he had just come through passport control at Dublin Airport after spending an hour being interviewed by border officials who questioned his immigration permissions and his right to be in the country. 

He had been looking forward to coming home to Ireland after spending a week in Gdansk with his Polish wife and her family. His wife stayed on in Poland to spend more time with the family, which meant Ali came back alone, needing to return to work. 

When asked to provide proof of his relationship with his wife, Ali offered his mobile phone to show his messaging history. The border officials took the phone and began scrolling back through the messages, looking at pictures and private messages. Ali was humiliated.

He said: “Do I always have to show me and my wife’s conversation when I am coming to Ireland? Do I have to prove my relationship all the time? For what am I being penalised? I don’t know. 

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“I felt as if I have done a crime that I am living here for 10 years, paying tax all that time.” 

ICI’s Killoran added that there is a real and urgent opportunity for the new Government to address the issues head-on.

“With some responsibilities being moved from the Department of Justice, including Direct Provision, this is the perfect time for it to prioritise the development of an efficient immigration system which better meets the needs of both those using it and those providing the administration,” he said. 

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