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24 Jun, 2022 20:52

Athlete barred from flight to US due to ‘wrong’ birthplace

GAA ambassador says he was kept off US-bound flight because he was born in Iraq
Athlete barred from flight to US due to ‘wrong’ birthplace

Abood al Jumaili, an Irish professional hurler and diversity and inclusion ambassador for the Gaelic Athletic Association, was prohibited from boarding a flight from Dublin to Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday. American border officials allegedly told him it was “because he was born in Iraq.”

Despite his Irish citizenship and Irish passport, he received an email ahead of his flight alerting him his Esta (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver had been rejected, supposedly because of his birthplace – where he has not been since leaving Baghdad as a nine-year-old in 2008. When he went to Dublin airport to try to explain the situation, he was once again blocked by Customs and Border Patrol officials.

I was in the airport looking at all these passengers getting through with their Irish passport. I’m there as an Irish citizen, yet I am denied to travel because of where I was born. It really is appalling and insulting,” al Jumaili, also known as Bonnar Ó Loingsigh, told the Independent.

US immigration policy prohibits anyone who has been to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen after March 1, 2011 from receiving an Esta visa, which would seem to leave al Jumaili in the clear. However, the CBP website warns that “nationals of [Visa Waiver Program] countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan or Syria” are “no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Still, al Jumaili is an Irish citizen and has been since 2010. “I believe it is totally unethical to have such a policy in place,” he said, calling it “not compliant with human rights and contrary to the rule of law.”  

The hurler had been scheduled to fly to Atlanta to coach American children in Gaelic sport, play some hurling matches, appear at speaking engagements and meet with Irish and American organizations.