Detained ex-au pair: ‘I would be scared to come back to Ireland’
Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho says her experience was traumatic but she bears no ill will
Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho on Strandhill Beach, Sligo. Photograph: Brian Farrell
Paloma Aparezida Silva-Carvalho will be scared boarding her flight to Zurich next Monday. The Brazilian woman has nothing to fear in Switzerland, but that’s what she thought when she flew into Dublin Airport less than two weeks ago, never dreaming that she was about to be whisked to the Dóchas women’s prison at Mountjoy.
Now flying holds terror for the young woman, who ironically hopes to shortly begin a career as a flight attendant. She has a job interview in October back in Brazil, one of many reasons she had no intention of extending her stay in Ireland, contrary to what the immigration authorities at Dublin Airport appeared to think.
“I did nothing wrong. I did not do any crime,” she says, still incredulous, still suffering “flashbacks” and still not knowing if her passport, when it is returned to her, will bear a stamp which will make her a marked woman at airports around the world.
The young woman’s anguish at being detained in prison – where she says she was strip-searched and offered ecstasy by another inmate – is compounded by revelations that hundreds of other Brazilians have been refused entry to Ireland, with the Brazilian embassy in Dublin confirming “many reports of alleged mistreatment” .
No ill will
As Silva-Carvalho prepares to leave, she insists that she bears no ill will towards this country, but she is adamant that she wants to be an advocate for others in her country who may suffer the same fate.
“I do not want this to happen to any other person,” says the 24-year-old, who has learnt that the Irish authorities will in September start construction work on some type of holding facility for those who are refused entry.
“But it will take 10 months to build. What will happen to all these people? Ten months is a long time. I do not want other people to go to prison,” she says.
She has been inundated with messages of support on Facebook and in other media from Irish people who have expressed outrage at how she was treated. She says that while the authorities did contact the Brazilian embassy two days ago to apologise for what happened, nobody had apologised to her.
“Yes, I would like some kind of public statement that I did not do anything wrong. I love Ireland so much. Yes, I would like to come back but I would be scared – and I don’t know if I would be permitted.”
She had planned to stay with her friends the Müller-Wieland family from Moycullen. She had been their au pair for two years and says they are “like my family”. Her mother was due to join her for the final two weeks of her holiday – on her first visit to Ireland – and both were due to fly out to Portugal on September 25th.
“I showed them the return tickets but they kept saying ‘tell us the truth’. I told them it was a holiday and that my mother was joining me. What did they think? Did they think my mother was just going to leave my father after nearly 40 years?”
Memory of prison
She still shudders at the memory of prison where she was in a cell with a toilet in situ close to the bed. “It was stinking,” she says.
“I cried all the time. I told [the other inmates] that I should not be here and they said ‘that’s what everyone says’. It was like a nightmare.”
Having been released from Mountjoy prison, Silva-Carvalho was given permission to stay in Ireland for 10 days. Her passport was confiscated and is to be returned to her at Dublin Airport.
The immigration authorities have not provided an explanation for her treatment, and the Department of Justice said it could not comment on individual cases.
Her story hit the headlines in Brazil as well. “National television came to my home and interviewed my mother. I think people were very surprised that this happened in Ireland. There has been a lot of comment.”
While she may not be facing deportation, she fears her passport will be stamped “leave to enter refused”, and that is something she fears.
“It may affect me in other countries.”
But Ireland remains special for many reasons, not least because it is where she met her Swiss fiance Christian Hauptli.
“I met him in Galway at the language school in 2015. But now I told him that I never want to travel anywhere again without him because I will always be afraid.”