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McBrearty/US Immigration case raises very serious questions about data retention and exchange

26 October, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today said the refusal of the US authorities to grant Frank McBrearty and his family entry to the United States yesterday, raises "very serious questions" about how data concerning individuals is retained in this country and exchanged with other foreign agencies. Mr. McBrearty was refused entry to the US because, according to US Immigration Records, he had a conviction for assault, despite the fact that the conviction had been overturned and he was found to be innocent of the charges levelled against him.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "While it has to be welcomed that the Department of Foreign Affairs intervened very quickly to sort this mess out, it nonetheless raises very serious questions about how data on individuals is retained in this country and exchanged with agencies from other jurisdictions.

"People found innocent of charges made against them, especially malicious charges as in the case of Frank McBrearty, have a right to have their whole character vindicated and to have any records in either electronic or other form relating to such malicious charges completely removed from their record.

"It is totally unacceptable that anybody should be subjected to any form of punitive or discriminatory action because false allegations against their character are being retained in some State database. This has implications not only for travel to other jurisdictions but also in terms of employment opportunities and issues such as adoption and fostering children here in Ireland. It is also unacceptable and even reprehensible that it appears that no effort was made to correct the outdated and erroneous information that had been passed on to the US Authorities until it was too late.

"A series of measures under the EU's Hague Programme involving further operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities including information exchanges are being pushed by the government with the agreement of Labour and Fine Gael. In the Hague Programme measures dealing with this issue there are no safeguards and protocols in place to ensure that erroneous or outdated information is not exchanged on any individual." ENDS

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