American backpackers denied entry to Ireland
European trip in ruins after friends forced to fly home
- UPDATE / IRISH HOTEL OWNERS OFFER FREE STAYS TO BANNED TEXAS BACKPACKERS / CLICK HERE
Three young backpackers from Texas were refused entry into Ireland last week - putting paid to their dream of a six-month trip across Europe.
To add insult to injury, they had to pay $1,900 each to fly back to the U.S.
Colin Zwirko, 21, and his two friends Gavin Sides, 19, and Ben Whitehurst, 21, had been saving for their trip for a year.
They planned to spend a week or so in Ireland and head on to Europe.
Zwirko had sold his car for $7,250 and saved up another $3,000 from his job as a bank teller while Sides and Whitehurst had roughly the same amount of money tucked away,
The three men, all from the Dallas/Forth Worth area, picked Ireland as their first stop as it was the nearest country to the U.S.
At least that was the plan when they left Dallas on Wednesday, July 2.
Zwirko, said “a stern, cold-faced, immigration officer” in Dublin refused the three entry into Ireland because she didn’t believe their story.
Speaking from a friend's house in New Jersey, Zwirko said he was furious that their trip had been ruined.
The boys were unconcerned as they walked up to the immigration desk in Dublin. None of them had ever traveled to Ireland before and none has a criminal record.
“Ben and I were in one line and Gavin went to another," said Zirko. "The man that Gavin encountered at the booth was nice and according to him, just asked him how long he'd be staying.”
“Gavin said under two weeks and the officer said that was all right and was nearly through with him.”
Meanwhile, the officer questioning Whitehurst asked where his companions were when he said he was traveling with two friends.
“She began asking us questions such as where we'd be staying and what our intentions were.”
None of the three was able to complete the part on the immigration form that required an address.
They said they met a guy online through couchsurfing.com (a Website designed to connect travelers with members of local communities who offer free accommodation) and although they didn’t know where he lived, they had his phone number.
As the Texas men were being questioned, Zwirko said that almost 150 passengers from the flight they had arrived on “blew through the line” in front of them.
Unhappy with the answers she was getting from Zwirko and his friends, the immigration officer asked them who the man they were staying with was.
“I answered that I met him on the Internet, I don't know him. She asked me twice more, ‘Who is he?’ in a stern, cold tone. The third time, I answered with confusion, ‘A person'?"
Confused and getting slightly agitated that their welcome in Ireland was very hostile, the friends waited about 30 minutes. Then they were questioned again individually.
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