Immigration chiefs deny detaining elderly Australian at Manila airport

Gill Boehringer receives a basic medical check-up in an airline “exclusion room” at Manila airport. Photo by the KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

The Bureau of Immigration has issued a statement to deny responsibility for detaining an 84-year-old Australian professor at Manila airport.

Academic and human rights advocate Gill Boehringer was refused entry into the Philippines after arriving in the small hours of the morning on Wednesday, August 8.

Immigration officials discovered that he had been included on a blacklist for allegedly involving himself in a political rally in 2015.

Yesterday we reported how he was seeking a medical check-up and a chance to rest before being deporting. A statement from his lawyers said he had a history of almost fatal pulmonary embolism, was at high risk of deep vein thrombosis and had cellulitis in both legs, which are currently swollen. 

Today, the BI has issued a press release to deny that Mr Boehringer is under their detention, and therefore not their responsibility. 

Bureau spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said: “Upon serving of the exclusion order, custody is immediately turned over to the airline that, by law, is required to board the passenger on the next available flight back to his port of origin.

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“We wish to dispel the notion that Mr Boehringer is detained by BI. 

“Custody has been with the airline immediately upon exclusion, and he has been staying in the airline’s exclusion room pending his return flight, which is a decent room with basic furniture needed for a comfortable stay. Technically speaking, he has not entered the country.”

She also rebuffed requests that Mr Boehringer be temporarily admitted into the country for a medical examination, passing responsibility to his airline. 

“It is upon the assessment of the medical team of the airline to determine if he is fit to travel. The bureau understands and considers his situation and has extended all possible assistance our office can give to him, including medical attention from his chosen physician,” she said.

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Any reversal of the order, she added, could only be done at a later date. “Boehringer may opt to later file for the lifting of his blacklist, which is subject to the presentation of proof to reverse the order of exclusion,” she said.

She added that Mr Boehringer, who is married to a Filipina from Mindanao, will board a flight to Guangzhou, China — his port of departure — once he is cleared fit to travel. 

The KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights has issued a statement in support of Mr Boehringer on its Facebook page. The group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay wrote: “We stress that Professor Gill Boehringer should be allowed entry in the Philippines. 

“He is suffering from serious ailments that need medical attention. He needs to be transferred to a medical facility with adequate equipment. 

“The detention and blacklisting of an 84-year-old man with a medical condition show the cruelty of this regime, adamant to harass and intimidate rights defenders who have worked for years in defending and promoting human rights in the country.”

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Mr Boehringer, formerly the head of law school of Sydney’s Macquarie University, has taught and researched at universities in the US, UK and Tanzania. He also served as an international election observer in the Philippines in 2007, 2010, and 2013.

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