An Irish citizen who is "stranded" in Russia with his two-month-old daughter and at risk of running out of money and becoming homeless has appealed to the authorities here for help to bring his baby home.
Oliver James lives in London but is an Irish citizen. He had a baby via surrogacy eight weeks ago in St Petersburg and has been trying to arrange travel documents to bring his daughter home since her birth on April 11th.
"To date no one has looked at any of my papers or my baby's papers," Mr James told The Irish Times.
“I was advised this can normally take six to eight weeks to get sorted. However, I fear that my six to eight weeks have not been started yet as no one from the Department of Foreign Affairs or embassy has seen my paperwork.”
He said he had been attempting to contact the relevant people “but it seems my emails and pleading for help have all but been ignored”.
He described his situation as “desperate”.
“I’m running out of money and anticipate by the end of this month I will struggle to pay for flights home.”
The rental agreement for the accommodation he has been living in since before the birth of his child “is about to run at the end of this month, so I don’t know where we would live”.
He arrived in St Petersburg with £20,000 to cover all his expenses and has so far spent £15,000 on legal fees.
“Yet I still have no sign of travel documents or even a meeting with embassy staff to show mine or my infant daughter’s documents. The rest of the money was used for living expenses and medical costs.”
Describing his situation as “quite dire” he stressed that he was not looking for money or financial help. “I just really really need help getting home.”
He said his child’s Russian birth certificate shows her as “having only one parent which is me. I have been her main caregiver since birth and [the birth cert] does not entitle her to any rights or protection as a Russian citizen. The only way she can be given a nationality is via myself.”
Speaking on Friday night, Mr James described his daughter Vivien as “amazing” but said trying to arrange to bring her home had been “incredibly stressful”.
“I feel like I am going around in circles.”
He said Friday nights had become his lowest point.
“On Mondays I am hopeful but on every Friday for weeks I have found myself in the same position I was in at the start of the week.”
Mr James needs a DNA test to prove paternity and that has to be taken in the presence of an official from the Irish Embassy in Moscow.
“It would take half an hour and has to be done via an Irish company called OQPS [Ormond Quay Paternity Services] which I am dealing with all the time and they have been amazing,” he said.
“The woman I am dealing with there has just texted me at 8pm on a Friday evening trying to help me do the DNA test without the embassy on Monday. She is great and has done everything she can.”
He said he had pleaded with the embassy to send an official to the Moscow clinic where the test can happen and he has offered to bring a doctor to the embassy to have the test done there.
“Vivien has no one else according to the Russian courts,” he said. “She is not a Russian citizen. She has to inherit her nationality from me.”
Mr James also contacted Liveline on RTÉ Radio One on Friday afternoon and the Department of Foreign Affairs supplied the programme with a statement in which it said it was "aware of the case and is offering consular assistance".
The statement added that it was “important to note that issues around surrogacy are complex and fact specific, involving issues such as citizenship, parentage and guardianship”.
It said Irish authorities were required “to act in compliance with Irish law and so it is the responsibility of the genetic father to ensure that the requirements of local law have been complied with”.
Mr James responded angrily to the statement when it was read on air but hours later he had softened his tone .
“I called them liars on the radio and on reflection I should not have said that but when they say there are helping me, they are not.”