There is a wonderful play by acclaimed Irish comedienne, Sonya Kelly, called How to Keep an Alien. It’s a charming, funny and poignant look back on her years-long struggle with immigration authorities in Ireland to live in her home country with the woman she loves, an Australian called Kate, who she met in Dublin while she was on a work visa. When Kate’s visa expired, she had to return to Australia, and so began Sonya’s battle.
A similar battle is now being faced by Liveline listener, Harriet, who wants simply to live life in her home country with the man she loves, her Brazilian husband, Kleber.
Kleber and Harriet, who originally met in 2012, had been living together for a few years in Ballinasloe, County Galway, working, paying a mortgage, sharing everything. And like most people in their situation, they made the decision to tie the knot.
That’s where the problems began.
“We got engaged on the 16th of August in Ballinasloe, we had booked our wedding for the 10th of December, 2015. After we got engaged, a member of the public contacted the GNIB, and notified them that myself and Kleber were trying to enter into a marriage of convenience.”
So, asked Philip Bouchier Hayes [filling in for Joe Duffy] , not a man to mince his words: “Is your marriage one of those sham marriages?”
It was a stark and pointed question, and the response from Harriet was unequivocal.
“Obviously not, but for a number of months, the HSE had allegations that were made by a member of the public. It took the HSE nearly one year to investigate it and we’ve since been notified that there has been no impediment to our marriage.
"But at this stage, since we received this notification, my husband has been deported back to Brazil in the meantime.”
When the original complaint was made, the GNIB, the Garda National Immigration Bureau, referred the complainant to the HSE, as Kleber and Harriet had not applied for a marriage license. However, two weeks later, they did just that. From there, they lost control.
The HSE decided to conduct an investigation and, while that was underway, refused to release a marriage licence to the couple. And at that stage, they would not even let Kleber and Harriet know the nature of the complaint, or who had made it.
“If the HSE had done their paperwork, with all of our bills, and much more, we had renovated our house before we got married … Kleber was working, contributing to the economy.”
All of this kicked off in September, 2015, but Kleber and Harriet decided to go ahead with their marriage, which was planned for December, the same year. However, just weeks before the marriage, and quite out of the blue, a deportation order arrived at their home.
Despite their protestations of appeals, the order was finally executed in July, 2016, and Kleber is now living in his hometown of São Paulo, Brazil.
Then, the absurdity set in.
On July 22nd of this year, Harriet received a letter to say that, following conclusion of the HSE investigation, they were now recognising that the marriage was, indeed, genuine and that the State was prepared to recognise its legitimacy. In order to complete the process, all Kleber and Harriet were required to do was to sign the marriage register in Sligo.
Kleber cannot travel to Sligo, nor travel to Ireland, as he has been deported to Brazil and has no visa.
He is clearly married to an Irish woman, in a relationship recognised by the State, in a country where the status of the family is recognised in the Constitution, but this procedural problem has thrown an enormous spanner in the works.
A classic Catch-22, worthy of the Joseph Heller novel of the same name.
Where to from here?
Liveline will be keeping an eye on this one.
To listen the all story, click here.