Chilean student kept in solitary confinement in Mountjoy Prison is freed

Estefany Gonzalez wins legal costs after State did not contest inquiry into legality of her detention

The Dóchas Centre: Estefany Carolina Alquinta Gonzalez was committed to the Dóchas Centre and kept isolated from other prisoners due to Covid-19 regulations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Dóchas Centre: Estefany Carolina Alquinta Gonzalez was committed to the Dóchas Centre and kept isolated from other prisoners due to Covid-19 regulations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

A Chilean woman kept in solitary confinement for more than a week in the female section of Mountjoy Prison after immigration officials refused to allow her enter the country has been freed after the State did not contest a High Court-ordered inquiry into the legality of her detention.

Estefany Carolina Alquinta Gonzalez came to Ireland earlier this month to begin a six-month course with a Dublin-based language school to study English. Chilean citizens do not require a visa to visit Ireland.

On her arrival at Dublin Airport on July 2nd, she was detained by immigration officials and denied entry to the State on grounds she represented a real and immediate threat to the fundamental policy interests of the State.

She denied she posed any such risk but was committed to the Dóchas Centre and kept isolated from other prisoners due to Covid-19 regulations. She has tested negative for the virus.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan had on Monday granted an application by her lawyers for an inquiry, under Article 40 of the Constitution, into the legality of Ms Gonzalez’s detention.

When the inquiry returned before the judge on Tuesday, he was told by Rosario Boyle SC, for the student, the State was not contesting the matter. Arising out of that, the judge ordered the applicant be released from custody and also awarded Ms Gonzalez her legal costs.

The court also heard the Minister for Justice intends to review a decision, which was subject of a second set of proceedings, not to grant Ms Gonzalez permission to remain in the State.

Department of Foreign Affairs

Ms Gonzalez, represented by Ms Boyle, with Aoife McMahon BL, instructed by solicitor Wendy Lyon, had argued, prior to coming to Ireland, she had been in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Ms Gonzalez said an official in that department had said she would be allowed enter Ireland in order to complete her course, even though her courses were to be delivered online, as long as her travel documents were in order. She said she had travelled around Europe in recent years, always complied with terms of visas issued to her and produced all her paperwork to officials when she arrived in Dublin. She had been staying in Denmark, and while her visa to stay there was due to expire in early July, she was prevented from leaving that country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On arrival in Dublin, she provided immigration officials with her documents, proof of funds and a copy of her communications with the DFA, and said she had booked accommodation where she planned to self-isolate for two weeks.

She was denied entry and claimed she was told by immigration officials to return to Denmark as no student visas were being given out as the schools were shut.

She also claimed she was informed she could not enter as a tourist as she wanted to come into Ireland as a student.

She further claimed she told officials, while courses were being given online, she wanted to remain here until classes opened but she was denied permission to enter the State, arrested and detained.