Irishman in Vietnam appeals for emergency papers to allow baby to leave

Roscommon man and partner unable to leave Vietnam and are confined to apartment

James Burke, Meghan Bartok and their baby daughter, Claire, in Ho Chi Minh City.

James Burke, Meghan Bartok and their baby daughter, Claire, in Ho Chi Minh City.

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A 25-year-old Irishman living in Vietnam who is unable to leave the country with his recently born daughter because the child does not have the correct documents, has appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide emergency, temporary documentation.

James Burke, who is from Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, is living in Ho Chi Minh City which now has a very strict Covid-19 lockdown in place.

Like him, the child’s mother, Meghan Bartok, a US citizen, has been working as an English teacher there. The couple’s daughter, Claire, was born in April but it was only after her birth, he says, that they realised he would not be registered in Vietnam as Claire’s father if he was not married to Meghan.

The couple, who had been planning to get married in Ireland, went to a marriage registry in Vietnam, but have yet to be issued with the resulting marriage certificate.

“Without the certificate I can’t be registered as the father and [Claire] can’t be given Irish citizenship or come to Ireland.”

As matters stand, his partner Meghan is not able to travel to the US with the child as the child does not have the necessary documentation to go there either.

Because of Covid restrictions, he is not working and Meghan is doing a reduced number of hours of online teaching.

The couple have been borrowing money from Meghan’s family in the US.

“We can’t ask for anything more from anybody. We feel terrible enough as it is.”

Strict restrictions

The Covid restrictions in Ho Chi Minh City meant the couple were confined to their apartment, he said.

“People are being given a slip of paper that allows one member of the household out, once a week, for a maximum of two hours, to do shopping.”

But the couple had not been issued with any slips, and so had been entirely confined to their apartment with their young child, getting supplies delivered, he said.

“It’s like house arrest. It is house arrest to be honest, and now they’ve announced the lockdown is going on for another month.

“We really need and want to come home.”

The couple can order groceries online, but it can take more than a week for them to be delivered. “Everyone is relying on the same delivery service.

“The last time we went out of the house was Tuesday, when I got my first AstraZeneca jab. That was about a kilometre from the house.”

He has appealed to the Department of Foreign Affairs to issue emergency documentation for Claire.

A spokeswoman for the department said it was aware of the case and was providing consular assistance.

“The department does not comment on the details of any specific case,” she said.