Minn. tourist detained in Dublin, strip searched, refused care - New York News

Minn. tourist detained in Dublin, strip searched, refused medical care

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

She intended to spend 90 days in Ireland and explore a romance that crosses national borders, but family members say immigration officials in Dublin did the unthinkable: They imprisoned her.

The Minnesota woman's mother has been in close contact with Fox 9 News, and she explained that the stunning, days-long ordeal began when her daughter made an off-the-cuff remark about how she would like to talk with chefs in Ireland about future work opportunities during her visit. At that point, Irish authorities apparently refused her entry on the grounds that she would burden the state by poaching an Irish job despite the fact that she had a return ticket as well as a home and a job waiting for her in Minneapolis.

IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL REFUSED DOCUMENTS

The woman's parents allege that even though their daughter produced documentation to show she planned a temporary stay in the country, immigration officials refused to look at them. Worse still, the family says they also took other items she needed.

After arriving in Dublin at 5:30 a.m. IST on Wednesday, officials restricted her ability to communicate with loved ones or the man who was set to meet her at the airport. They also took her passport, tickets, and baggage claim numbers, the family said.

While she was isolated, family members say she had little information or food despite recently concluding a 20-hour trip. Instead, loved ones say she was forced to sit in a noisy airport hallway while hungry and was not allowed to get her luggage in order to retrieve medicine for a growing migraine headache.

The woman had checked her medicine at the direction of airport officials, and repeatedly asked to see a doctor upon arrival -- but family members say she was refused medical care for hours until someone walked by, gave her a pill and refused to identify it.

TOO ILL TO FLY, BUT AMBULANCE CANCELED

Eventually, the woman was able to convince someone to call an ambulance for her because she had thrown up several times and was now dizzy, constantly nauseous and feared she was becoming dehydrated. Once the immigration supervisor found out, however, the call was canceled and paramedics were turned away while officials hurled verbal abuse at the woman, the woman's mother relayed.

In an e-mail sent to Fox 9 News, family members claim the immigration supervisor told the tourist she was a "lying criminal," accused her of "making stuff up" and threatened to charge her with a crime. Authorities then tried to put her on a flight back home, but family members say the flight attendants would not allow her to board because it was visibly apparent that she was too ill to make the trip.

Yet, even though she was barred from a flight due to her condition, family members say immigrations still would not allow her to see a doctor. Instead, they sent her to prison.

TOURIST STRIP SEARCHED, COMMUNICATION BLOCKED

Family members tell Fox 9 News that after the woman was turned away by the flight crew, immigration officials took away her phone, iPad and other personal belongings before transporting her to a jail cell she would share with a sex worker who was also vomiting.

The woman's mother said the officials at the facility initially told her that a private room had been designated for her daughter -- but once the two got back in contact, her daughter said that simply wasn't the case. Her parents were shocked again when the tourist told them she had been strip searched "a couple of times."

Additionally, family members say immigration officials instructed the woman to remove her prescription medications from their bottles before heading to the lock-up -- but once she arrived, officials took the medicines away because they weren't in their proper containers.

All the while, family members say they were scrambling to determine what had happened to the woman and ultimately had to turn to Google to find out who to call.

"I hope that if you must ever Google 'prison' with your child in mind that you don't hit the websites that popped up for me," her mother wrote.

Initially, the woman's father and mother were able to speak with her -- but they said the same was not true the following day.

"She sounded flat and sad and exhausted and, well, awful," the tourist's mother said. "Broke my heart, but I wanted to hear her voice. I called this morning, but they wouldn't let me talk to her."

In fact, the woman told her family that she was yelled at after her father called from Minnesota, and was told she could only speak for 6 minutes a day.

AMERICAN EMBASSY CANNOT INTERFERE

Although the family tried to reach out to the American Embassy for help, they had difficulty reaching someone by phone and were told via e-mail that American representatives could do little on their behalf.

"Unfortunately the U.S. Embassy cannot intervene in immigration matters, decided by the Irish authorities, just as the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C., cannot influence U.S. immigration decisions made by border control officers at U.S. ports of entry," the reply from the embassy read in part.

Embassy representatives did contact the detention facility where the woman was being held to advocate that they provide her with medical care, but family members say they were also unsuccessful in swaying Irish authorities.

The woman's mother confirmed that a nurse did "look at her" and offered pain medications that neither worked nor suited her needs, eventually telling the woman to try a "cup of good Irish tea." The tourist told her family that each cell contained a small kettle, tea bags and milk.

In the morning, immigration officials took the tourist back to the airport by car, and her mother said officials further abused her daughter by intentionally turning loud music up inside the vehicle after the woman had explicitly asked them to turn it down due to her migraine.

CARRY-ON CONFISCATED, LUGGAGE LIKELY LOST

After spending a night in a cell, family members say the woman was further abused by immigration officials when she returned to the airport and the very same supervisor who shouted at her before said, "If you aren't feeling better today, it's back to jail for you."

The tourist told her parents that before returning to the airport, she asked detention officials to return her personal belongings to her -- including her carry-on bag and medications. Family members say detention officials told her the items had been sent to the airport, but when she asked for them after arriving, she was berated by the supervisor who allegedly demanded, "Did you even ask for them?"

The tourist's father called the immigration office and eventually convinced them to correspond with the prison and deliver his daughter's carry-on;  however, they delayed so long that the family says the woman boarded a plane to Toronto without her driver's license, money, or medications. After she boarded, a staff member from the detention facility provided the flight crew with her possessions, leaving her family in the dark for an additional 7 hours.

The woman's mother explained that her daughter's baggage claim information had also been taken, and that when her daughter arrived, the immigration officials told the tourist her luggage had been lost. When she asked for the baggage claim numbers, officials refused to provide them -- a move her family says denied them the ability to track down her belongings.

Instead, her father was told over the phone that immigration had given the pilots a packet for the tourist that contained her passport, baggage claim tickets and a form to fill out in order to locate her lost luggage. Family members say the form was absent from the packet the tourist received after landing in Toronto.

FAMILY RETAINS SOLICITOR IN DUBLIN

Any immigration conflict is a permanent part of any traveler's record, and the family hopes to file complaints and ultimately reverse the decision that they say horrified U.S. customs agents in Toronto who asked for the details.

Family members have already retained a solicitor in Dublin who has already contacted the Irish authorities involved in the ordeal, and the woman's parents are clearly upset that a woman who has never been charged with a crime would face such punitive treatment.

"If you don't want to admit her to your country, fine. You get to make your rules, but you don't have the right to take away her personal property, her luggage and carry-on, her medication, her phone, her access to medical care, her ability to call an ambulance for herself, and control her ability to communicate with the outside world -- all without bothering to inform anyone in her family of what you did or where she is," her mother wrote on Facebook.

Fox 9 News can confirm that the woman returned to Minneapolis on Thursday night and is now in the company of her family. 

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