Steve Oladeja: 30 days in prison for wanting to see his child

AN INNOCENT MAN IMPRISONED


Steve Oladeja was a policeman in Nigeria. He had moral objections to enforcing the murderous policies of the then government, and was imprisoned in horrific conditions after voicing his objections, and refusing orders. In 1997, he escaped and arrived in Ireland with his wife and two of his children who arrived separately. He has refugee status. In 1999, he opened a shop in Dublin's Moore Street, where he is a respected member of the African community. Members of RAR have known him for some time.

In September 2000, he went to London for a long weekend to buy stock for his shop, but also to meet his 12 year-old daughter, Topper, who had come to England from Nigeria. On Sept. 26th, his flight landed in Dublin at about 2:30 pm. He was stopped by the immigration police, who demanded his passport and ticket. When asked about Topper, he said she was his 12 year-old daughter, it was unfortunate that he had no papers for her with him. This was a very serious error on his part. His intention was to register her with the Dept. of Justice the next day. His luggage was already cleared and he and Topper were taken to a reception hall. Then after 10 minutes, a woman took the child away to a separate room, and when he asked to accompany his daughter, the officer in charge refused in an aggressive fashion. At about 4:30 p.m, a man came and told him he could go, and that Topper was being sent back to England, as they didn't believe she was his daughter. He asked for the flight number so that he could buy a ticket and go with her. He told them: "she is just a baby". They refused his request, and would not let him see her and said that there would be trouble if he did not leave the airport. He asked to see documentation and was given verbal racist abuse. When he refused to leave, he was physically assaulted to the point where he feared for his life, as his breathing was being restricted. Topper was brought through the area and witnessed some of this treatment at the hands of the immigration officers. Finally, Steve was handcuffed and locked in the toilet until about 20 uniformed Gardai took him away to Santry garda station. At this stage, his glasses were broken, his shoes were gone, his glasses were broken, and his clothes were in tatters.

The next morning, after appearing at the district court, he was sent to Clover Hill Prison where the doctor gave him some painkillers (after he requested a physical exam and some medical attention). RAR was contacted and members attended the four court hearings, which were a farce. Steve's passpport had been taken and kept by the immigration police, and ID brought by his wife was disregarded. As a result, he was in prison for 30 days until finally bail of £3000 was raised (£3000 bail is normally reserved for incidents of extremely serious charges). He was supported and visited in prison by members of the African community and RAR. We also got him an excellent solicitor half-way through his ordeal.

The most serious of the 6 charges against him are 2 counts of ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) to members of the Gardai. Steve now has an independent medical report, because even after 30 days in prison, his bruises were visible. His hand was also quite badly injured. Steve's case came up for mention in the Metropolitan Court on 6th December. RAR have started a petition on this case and view it with the utmost seriousness. RAR deal with cases where we believe there is a genuine case of state racism or wrongdoing by the state. In the cases of Ekundayo and Belmondo, our concerns have been proven justified. Steve's case is one which not only involves an injustice to Steve - even worse, it involves Steve's 12 year-old daughter, Topper.

And this isn't the only case we have heard aboutÉremember the Pakistani businessmen locked up in Mountjoy simply because they gave an unsatisfactory answer to immigration officials. If this is how Ireland treats honest, hard-working businesspeople like Steve, or the 7 Pakistanis who came to invest in this country, how long do you think our 'friendly' reputation will last.

This Extract is taken from Residents Against Racism's Autumn (2001?) Newsletter:


To Residents against Racism