Pamela Izevbekhai and the Liberal Conscience
Deaglán de Bréadún
The saga of Pamela Izevbekhai is like the plot of a 19th-century, three-volume novel. It has created something like turmoil in sectors of the media and the legal system. There’s been nothing like it for a long time.
Pamela Izevbekhai outside the Supreme Court. Photograph: Garrett White/Collins
Ms Izevbekhai is appealing a deportation order from Ireland on the basis that, if she returned to Nigeria, her daughters would be subject to female genital mutilation. She says another daughter, Elizabeth, died in 1993 at the age of 17 months, possibly from profuse bleeding as a result of FGM.
Except that now there is evidence that Elizabeth never existed. The documents purporting to chronicle her brief period on this earth are acknowledged to be forgeries.
Worse still, the “doctor” who gave interviews on two separate radio stations, Ocean FM and RTE, was an impostor – actually two different impostors! Meanwhile the real doctor whose name was used in the documentation says Elizabeth never existed but he wants €5,000 before he will discuss the matter with the media. Ms Izevbekhai’s lawyers have sought to withdraw from the case because of the forged documents. The State has spent something like €500,000 on the matter already but Ms Izevbekhai herself is getting a mere €19.10 per week.
The Nigerian Ambassador insisted on RTE last night there was no FGM problem in her country. But documentation from her government says it is quite widespread.
There are a lot of ramifications and implications in this case. It has clearly been traumatic for many people involved. It will in all probability have consequences for other asylum-seekers. Ali Bracken, writing in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune, indicates some of the possible legal consequences for Ms Izevbekhai herself, which are extremely serious. The likelihood of Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern reversing the deportation order are somewhere between nothing and sweet damn-all.
An enterprising journo needs to track down Ms Izevbekhai’s husband’s family and ask them if they really would insist on her other two daughters undergoing FGM should the girls return to Nigeria.
A lot of people clearly feel they have been made fools of and, unfortunately, this may mean they will be reluctant to get involved in similar cases in the future.