Brazilian visiting dying grandchild ‘shaken’ by immigration encounter

Grieving couple speak of ‘unnecessary pain’ caused by experience at Dublin Airport

The mother of a Brazilian woman living in Ireland was left "completely distraught" after she was interrogated by immigration officials at Dublin Airport on a visit to see her terminally ill grandchild, her son-in-law has said.

Maria Dulcinia Silva had booked to fly from Sao Paulo last summer to spend six weeks in Ireland helping her daughter Tatiana Da Silva Souza and her partner, Tomás Fay, with their new baby. However, baby Lorena was born a month premature with serious complications. Two weeks later Ms Silva arrived in Dublin Airport.

"The only exciting thing we had going for us was the arrival of Tatiana's mother," Mr Fay told The Irish Times. "People were coming out but there was no sign of her mum. I was pacing up and down and we started to get worried."

A few minutes later Mr Fay’s phone rang with a call from an immigration official who asked whether he knew Ms Silva and how much money she was carrying. Mr Fay explained their child was seriously ill and that Ms Silva was visiting her grandchild. The officer then asked if Mr Fay owned any property or assets.


“I felt the questions I was being asked while standing in arrivals at Dublin Airport were very confidential so I requested could I go meet with them.” The officer refused.

There seems to be an assumption that everyone from Brazil is either a prostitute or a cleaner

“He asked me what my annual salary was and if we paid rent. When I gave him the address of the area where we live he said ‘There’s no way you could afford to look after this woman and your partner earning that salary’. On three occasions I mentioned that our child was sick.”

‘Quite aggressive’

Mr Fay, who was accustomed to the type of questions his partner was asked by immigration officials at Dublin Airport, had arranged for Ms Silva to carry a letter with the details of her visit. The letter included information on a short trip she would make to Hamburg to visit family and the details of her return flight to Brazil. It said Ms Silva could not speak English, that she was carrying enough money for the trip and that Mr Fay would cover her expenses in Ireland.

I understand they have a job to do but there is a way you should treat people

“He was quite aggressive on the phone. I was in complete and utter shock, and Tatiana was distraught. I understand they have a job to do but there is a way you should treat people. There seems to be an assumption that everyone from Brazil is either a prostitute or a cleaner.”

The immigration official told Mr Fay he would discuss the situation with his supervisor and hung up. Worried that his mother-in-law would be deported back to Brazil, he rang a local TD for help. As he explained the problem to the local representative, Ms Silva walked into the arrivals hall.

“She was quite shaken. It was her first time leaving Brazil and travelling on an airplane. Our experience at the airport was unacceptable. It happened at a time when I was vulnerable and didn’t have the energy to tackle it.”

Seeking apology

Three days later baby Lorena died. Mr Fay and Ms Silva have spent the past year trying to rebuild their life and come to terms with the loss of their daughter. He now writes an a blog about how to deal with the loss of a child from a father's perspective.

How Tatiana's mother was treated was unacceptable and disgraceful

Mr Fay decided to speak publicly about their experience in Dublin airport after reading the story of Brazilian woman Paloma Aparecida Silva-Carvalho.

“I want an apology for the unnecessary pain and hurt it caused us. How Tatiana’s mother was treated was unacceptable and disgraceful. I’m also speaking out in the hope that change will be implemented so that no one, especially someone vulnerable, which I was at the time, is treated like this ever again.”

A statement from the Department of Justice said it could not comment on individual cases. It said all foreign nationals seeking permission to enter the State were “considered in accordance with the law which involves seeking responses to basic queries, reviewing information presented or available relevant to their proposed entry such as the purpose of the visit, the duration of stay, exit or return flight plans, etc.”

It added that all immigration officers attached to the Border Management Unit underwent training, which includes “customer service, cultural awareness, equality and related matters, including human rights and international protection” and that refresher training and mentoring was also provided on an ongoing basis.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast