Detention of Nigerian priest in Ireland provokes accusation of racism

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A SENIOR clergyman has branded Ireland a “racist society” after a Nigerian catholic priest on a visit to the country was arrested and subjected to a humiliating search by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

Church of Ireland priest Canon Patrick Comerford said the arrest and humiliation of Rev Father John Achebe, a catholic priest, casts a shadow of shame on Ireland’s immigration policies: “We are living in a society where racism is officially sanctioned, approved, and legislated for.”

Father Achebe arrived in Ireland on a flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to visit his relative who works as a psychiatrist at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick. He was arrested at Dublin airport by immigration officials on suspicion of entering the country illegally.

He was taken to Cloverhill Prison where he was stripped naked, placed in a cell with four other inmates, and served with a deportation letter.

He was only released after the Nigerian ambassador, Ms Kemafo Chikwe, intervened and assured state officials that Father Achebe was on a legitimate mission.

Spokesman for the Nigerian embassy John Ishaye said immigration officials should have checked with the embassy before sending him to jail: “We could have told them he was a reverend father and a man of certain standing.”

A representative of the Dublin Archdiocese, Father Gerry Kane, said: “The system needs to be both robust and just, but what this case illustrates is that this has not been achieved,” he said.

Father Achebe’s solicitor, Gerry Cullen, said flaws in the 2004 Immigration Act allowed the State to detain visitors from certain countries at will: “The law states that the immigration officer may refuse to give permission to land if the officer is satisfied on certain grounds, but the question is how is this officer satisfied?”

A statement from GNIB said the refusal of Father Achebe’s permission to land was “lawful and appropriate” and that his subsequent release was “an exceptional circumstance done as a gesture of goodwill to the ambassador, and to Father Achebe.”

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