Dublin immigration officer entitled to look at man’s texts, court rules

Man took case after being refused entry over belief he was entering marriage of convenience

The man claimed he was coming to visit his brother. However, the officer concluded, through a perusal of his text messages, the man was in fact coming here to enter a “marriage of convenience.”  File photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The man claimed he was coming to visit his brother. However, the officer concluded, through a perusal of his text messages, the man was in fact coming here to enter a “marriage of convenience.” File photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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An immigration officer at Dublin Airport was entitled to look at a man’s mobile phone text messages which led the officer to believe he was here to enter into a marriage of convenience, the High Court ruled.

The Pakistani man arrived in October 2017 at the airport with a travel visa and was interviewed by the immigration officer who then examined his phone.

The man claimed he was coming to visit his brother.

However, the officer concluded, through a perusal of his text messages, the man was in fact coming here to enter a “marriage of convenience.”

He was refused permission to land and taken to Cloverhill Prison in Dublin. Four days later, he was removed from Ireland.

He then brought proceedings against the Minister for Justice and the gardai seeking to quash the decision to refuse him permission to enter the State and a declaration that the search of his phone breached his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

He also complained about his detention and the conditions under which he was held at Cloverhill.

Mr Justice Max Barrett refused to grant the reliefs he sought.

Sham marriage

The judge said the notion the immigration officer took an irrelevant consideration into account when making his decision to refuse landing came from a reference in the officer’s notebook to “Brother’s sham marriage”.

The judge found the notebook contained “but a record” of the immigration officer’s conversation with the man as well as thoughts arising.

He did not see any irrelevant consideration was taken into account. The notebook and a contemporaneous computer log in relation to border management suggested that all and only relevant details were taken into account, he said.

Section 7 of the 2004 Immigration Act provides, an immigration officer or garda may search a non-national’s luggage and any documents they carry may be examined, the judge said.

Those documents include “any information in non-legible form that is capable of being converted into legible form.”

That included any electronic device and did come within the Act, he said.

The judge also found the refusal to land notice was adequate to inform the man of why he was being refused permission to land.

In relation to conditions at Cloverhill Prison, the judge said not a lot was made during the court hearing about this complaint. However, while prison “doubtless is not pleasant”, there was no evidence to suggest the conditions breached his human rights.

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