An American writer who has written glowingly about Ireland in the top-selling "Better Home and Gardens" magazine spent four days flying back and forth across the Atlantic after being refused entry into Ireland.
Tessa Fowler, 38, from Wyoming was refused entry into Ireland by the Dublin Garda Immigration Bureau for not having a return ticket.
Fowler was distraught on the phone to IrishCentral.com on Tuesday as she relived the nightmare she encountered at Dublin Airport at 9 a.m. on July 16.
Although not confirmed, it looks like Fowler was on the same flight which contained the three young Texan backapackers who were making their second attempt to get into Ireland. The Texans were allowed in to a huge welcome but Fowler was not.
“It was the worst time of my life,” said Fowler, who wrote in "Better Homes and Gardens" (which has a circulation of nearly 8 million) about her trips to Ireland and how she enjoys cooking Irish food.
Fowler, who claims Irish ancestry, has been in Ireland five times in the past three years. This was to be her sixth trip. Fowler’s best friend lives there. Every year, sometimes twice, Fowler travels to Ireland for her annual vacation.
“I have spent so much money in Ireland in the past few years, I’m just so mad that this woman would turn me away,” said Fowler referring to the female officer she dealt with at Dublin Airport last week. It is not the same officer who refused the Texans entry.
“She was very rude, I’m used to getting the warm Irish welcome at Shannon. The few questions about how long I’m staying and who I’m going to visit is usually all I get but this woman was awful,” she said.
On her previous trips, Fowler flew to Shannon but this year she was unable to get a Shannon touchdown so she was required to fly to Dublin. She had booked a train ticket from Dublin to Cork for the same day.
After realizing that Fowler only had a one-way plane ticket, the immigration officer began a barrage of questioning.
“She asked how long I was going to stay and I said, 'It depends on how I feel, maybe a few weeks.' She said that wasn’t a good enough answer. She asked me how did I plan to fund my trip, I showed her an ATM receipt that showed I had $ 2,979.94 in my bank account and told her I was a 38-year-old woman with grown children. That I could well afford my own holiday. I also said I have a platinum card.”
The questioning went on. The immigration officer was still not happy.
“She wanted to know why I didn’t have euros on me. I told her my bank only charges me $1 to withdraw money in Ireland so that is the way I do it.”
Fowler explained that she often travels on two one-way tickets as they are less expensive than changing a return flight. She added that she had flown into Shannon last year on a one-way and that it had not been an issue.
When the officer asked Fowler about her own family life, she said she had three children, two in college and one who was 17 and he was with his father in the U.S. for the summer.
“She (officer) then said ‘so you’ve left your husband and children.’ I said 'he's my ex husband and I’m on my vacation'.”
“I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was in tears at this stage. She told me to go and sit down and people were just staring at me.”
Eventually the officer told Fowler she didn’t believe her story and that she was booked on the next Delta flight back to the U.S.
“I asked to speak with someone else. She said ‘you’re dealing with me. You’re out of here now’.”
Distraught and still in shock, Fowler spent the plane journey home in floods of tears trying to come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t get to see her best friend this summer and the humiliation she suffered at the hands of the Dublin immigration officer.
“It wasn’t like I was a single kid running around Europe. I have three grown kids, two in college,” said Fowler.
After landing in Atlanta, she checked with Delta for a flight to anywhere else in Europe and was told the next flight out was going to the U.K.
“I always wanted to go to Scotland and England so I booked it for $1,900.”
Upon arriving in Manchester in England, the immigration officers saw that she had been refused entry into Ireland two days before and they too questioned her.
“I have to say the immigration officers in England were lovely. They were very professional but they too asked me a lot of questions,” she said.
After a call to Ireland, Fowler learned that she was not going to be allowed entry into the U.K. either.
“They told me they called Ireland and they said they didn’t want me in the U.K. in case I tried to get back into Ireland. Just ridiculous. And the worst part is the English immigration officers said they believed my story and when they searched my luggage they said it was obvious that I was only going on vacation.”
The next morning, Fowler was back on a plane headed for the U.S. and down $4,000 without a vacation.
Apart from being extremely upset that her vacation plans have been spoiled, that she spent four days flying back and forth across the Atlantic and that she is out $4,000 her biggest worry is that for the rest of her life she will be a marked person.
“The immigration officers in England told me to expect a lot of trouble wherever I go in the future because I wasn’t allowed into Ireland,” she said crying.
“And when will I see my friend again,” she sobs. She call to the Irish consulate in San Francisco to complain “I am indeed upset about the amount of money I am out, but all I would like out of this really is an apology and to have that mark gone off my passport so my future holidays to Ireland or elsewhere can be enjoyed and not hindered in immigration red tape,” she said.