American backpackers denied entry to Ireland
European trip in ruins after friends forced to fly home
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.
They were asked to show their bank statements, but the they didn’t have them. Zwirko offered to show his online bank statements on his laptop, but reportedly, immigration officials refused to look at the screen.
Another 15 minutes passed. The boys were then escorted to a lock-up and told they were denied entry into Ireland.
Heartbroken and disgusted, Zwirko and his friends could not believe what was happening to them. They were told they would have to go back to the U.S. immediately.
When Zwirko demanded an explanation of why they were being denied entry he was just told that the officer didn’t like their story.
“I can only gather that because of the two reasons stated, she believed, somehow, illogically at best, that we were entering indefinitely in order to gain illegal jobs and perform other criminal acts,” he said.
The Garda (Irish police), which oversees Ireland’s immigrations agency, has since released a statement saying that U.S. citizens are rarely denied entry because "the vast majority of persons traveling to Ireland are aware of the requirements of the immigration authorities before undertaking their journey to this country."
Now back in the U.S. and down close to $4,000, Zwirko and his friends are fuming.
When the boys were put back on a plane bound for the U.S., Zwirko said he felt extremely sad.
“Below I could see the green fields and the countryside and I knew there and then we would never get to experience it,” he said.
For now the friends’ trip is at a standstill.
Tourism Ireland has responded to the incident with concern, and has requested an expedited investigation.
A spokeswoman for Ireland’s tourist board, Sinead Grace, stated: "Ireland's reputation as a friendly and welcoming place is extremely important and not to be taken for granted.”
“We have just received this complaint and I’m going to have it investigated immediately. I shall issue a report when I have the matter investigated.”
Asked if it was unusual for airport immigration officers to refuse entry to U.S. citizens Dixon replied, “I have to investigate first."
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