The person concerned claimed asylum in the State on 27 March 2001, stating he was a Nigerian citizen. He failed to attend at the office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner for his asylum interview and became uncontactable. His asylum application was refused and on 21 August 2002 a deportation order was signed in respect of him. He failed to attend at the Garda National Immigration Bureau as requested to make arrangements for his removal and was thereafter classified as an evader.
The person concerned subsequently made another asylum application in the United Kingdom under a different name and claimed to be a Ghanaian national. On 18 December 2002 the United Kingdom formally requested Ireland to accept his transfer back to Ireland under the Dublin Convention. The request was acceded to and he was returned to Dublin on 19 February 2003, where he was detained in Clover Hill Prison pending his removal from the State. On 3 April 2003 a Nigerian consular official attended at the offices of the Garda National Immigration Bureau to interview him for the purposes of issuing a travel document. Prior to the interview, the person concerned informed the Garda that he was, in fact, a Ghanaian national and not Nigerian as he had claimed earlier. He gave a different name to Garda and signed a statement to that effect. He also gave details of his address in Ghana and indicated he wished to return there.
The Ghanaian Embassy in London was contacted by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and, on being supplied with relevant information and a photograph, they issued a travel document to facilitate his removal to Ghana. The removal was commenced on 15 April 2003. Two members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau escorted him to Ghana via Amsterdam. On arrival in the capital, Accra, the person indicated to his escorts that he was in fact Liberian. He also informed the Ghanaian immigration officials of this, whereupon he was refused leave to enter Ghana, notwithstanding the presentation of the travel document issued by the Ghanaian Embassy in London. The Garda escorts requested that the Ghanaian Embassy in London be contacted but this facility was refused. The Garda escorts were left with no option but to take back the deportee on the return flight to Amsterdam and subsequently onward to Dublin. The GNIB believes the person to be the holder of a Ghanaian passport and efforts are continuing with the Ghanaian Embassy in London to have him accepted in Ghana.
Figures are not yet available in respect of the Garda costs associated with the operation. However, the cost of the two air tickets is likely to be in the order of €6,100 when the bill is received. The person concerned deliberately misled the Garda and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner as to his true identity and nationality. I am determined that this should not succeed as it would send the wrong signal that deportation can be avoided by simply being disruptive and would create further difficulties for the Garda in the already problematic task of enforcing deportation orders.
Every effort is made by the GNIB to ensure reception of deportees in destination countries. However, as the present case shows, this cannot always be guaranteed on arrival. The number of such cases where this type of situation arises is very limited. Where travel documents are required, the GNIB arranges for these with the particular embassy before removal is commenced. This sometimes means an interview of the deportee by a consular official before the documents are issued.
I have thought of adding new criminal offences for misleading members of the Garda Síochána, but there is a school of thought that it is the right of refugee applicants to either mislead or deceive the organs of this State as to the circumstances of how they got to Ireland. It is frequently the case that all personal documentation is destroyed to facilitate the making of bogus claims. The Deputies will appreciate that it cannot be the case that the State backs down in the face of behaviour of this kind. As is clear from the facts of this case outlined to the House, every reasonable step was taken to ensure that this behaviour would not be rewarded, and it is my intention to ensure that it will not be rewarded.