Irish group who were deported from Israel demand answers
Elaine Daly has been organising the trip for eleven years
Israeli immigration officers stopped the group when they arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Photograph: iStock
Elaine Daly, Fidelma Bonass, Joan Nolan and Stephen McCloskey were part of a group of 31 primarily Irish people who intended to visit Palestine for a week.
Ms Daly, who is the organiser of the annual trip, said it is non-political in nature and that none of those deported had been in trouble in with the Israeli authorities before.
Ms Bonass said she believes the authorities were trying to stop them attending a weekly protest against Israeli settlements in Palestine. She said members of the group had attended this protest before on their own but that it was never part of the group’s itinerary.
Israeli immigration officers stopped Ms Daly and the others when they arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on September 9th. After landing the group of four were brought aside and interviewed.
Ms Daly said a man who described himself as “the head of immigration” threatened to deport the entire group and that she told him this wouldn’t be a good idea as it would cause “a stink” in Ireland.
“He asked if I was threatening him. I said I wasn’t threatening him - that it was just a statement of fact.”
The four were deported back to Dublin on the next flight while the other 27 travellers were allowed to continue their trip. The group was told they were being deported on the grounds of “prevention of illegal immigration”. All had valid Irish passports and tickets to fly back home a week later.
Ms Daly, a social worker, was also deported due to “public security or public safety or public order considerations.” She told The Irish Times she has never been in trouble with the authorities in Ireland or abroad and that she finds the accusation “insulting.”
Ms Bonass, who works with the HSE, said the head of immigration had “roared” at her in the airport and made her feel very intimidated.
She said he told her: “I can make life very difficult for you. I can blacklist you with Interpol so that you can never travel anywhere again.”
Ms Daly said she is “a total law abiding citizen. The four of us are. We all have absolutely no baggage. I’m not even a member of a political party. They have absolutely nothing on us.”
Immigration officials at the airport showed the group a video of a non-violent protest from several years ago in the Palestinian village of Bil’in.
“I’ve never been to that town in my life” Ms Daly said. Ms Bonass said she and others had been at the same protest in previous years but that the demonstrators were non-violent.
Ms Daly has been organising yearly trips to Israel and Palestine since 2006. She said some travellers are members of pro-Palestinian organisations but the trip itself is non-political. All those deported had travelled to the area before on multiple occasions.
She has contacted the Israeli Embassy in Dublin to find out why she was deported and to enquire if she will be allowed to travel to the country next year. A spokesman for the embassy said it is aware of the incident.
“We have referred the matter to the relevant authorities in Israel for further investigation,” the spokesman told The Irish Times.