The Lost American Part II: A Lonely Mountain


“Thomas, he’s coming in 2019,” Imad says. By then, Imad had been in direct provision for about six months, but he immediately established a connection with Thomas, his new roommate.

“He told me a bit of his story, like [him being] homeless, then before Ireland he was in Alaska, [he] showed me pictures there, snow,” Imad recalls. Thomas had never been to Ireland before, and Imad never knew exactly why he had come here.

“I’ve asked him several times but he doesn’t like [it]. I told him, listen, I’m Algerian, I’m from North Africa, I’m here as an asylum seeker. You are a US citizen, you can go anywhere. Thomas, he was a very smart guy, at the same time he was a very good guy, but he doesn’t like everyone.”

Between 2011 and 2020, there were 50 applications for asylum/international protection from US citizens, according to the Department of Justice. None have been granted protection status – whether refugee status or subsidiary protection – and fewer than five have been granted leave or permission to remain in Ireland. During the same period, 40 deportation orders were issued, of which 10 were executed.


Someone who was a former US soldier, if you’re paranoid about the United States, you’re going to have a real fear of your data being used by anyone, anywhere. So wherever you should have signed up for a service, he probably wouldn’t have done so.”


These figures, while low, easily exceed the number of applications from people from other English-speaking countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, and the figures also show that the rate of asylum applications from Americans has increased. Between 2011 and 2016, less than five applications were filed each year, and none in 2014, but 34 were filed between 2017 and 2020, with 12 applications filed in 2019 and 2020.

Fiona Hurley is policy and communications manager at Nasc, a Cork-based NGO that helps migrants and refugees. She has never had contact with Thomas, but knows a number of Americans in the direct supply system in recent years. While every case is different, she feels that for some U.S. nationals there is an element of paranoia, legitimate concern, or both, that they are in some way at risk of being watched or monitored by US authorities; a post-Edward Snowden miasma of danger and fear.

Fiona thinks that in addition to any possible element of paranoia in some US applicants, there may be a perception that Ireland is more rural than it actually is, that it offers a kind of bucolic darkness unlike the UK or other European countries. Despite this, and the obvious lure of a common language, Fiona sees no evidence of special treatment for Americans under direct provision, and argues that in some ways seeking asylum is more difficult. for US citizens entering the system.

“They might have their case heard faster because they would be from a country considered safe, so it’s harder to prove they have a legitimate case,” she says.

Fiona also believes that someone like Thomas was unlikely to tie himself to an NGO or community group, which means the basis for his asylum claim may be written in a file in a government department, and so little many people are aware of the reasons he gave. “Someone who was a former US soldier, if you’re paranoid about the United States, you’re going to have a real fear of your data being used by anyone, anywhere,” she says. “So wherever you should have signed up for a service, he probably wouldn’t have.”

The usual method for an American to enter Ireland is to obtain a 90-day visa, followed by an application for the appropriate immigration clearance from the Minister of Justice or an application for a work permit from the Department of Business, Trade and Employment before entering the country. State.

And so, for some reason, Thomas applied for international protection, becoming one of the few but growing US nationals entering the asylum system in Ireland. Was Yah directing him, according to his beliefs? “Well, I’m running out of time,” he says in his latest Youtube clip. “I’ll see you on the road. Shalom…”

A shrill Thomas in one of the last clips he posted, outlining his plans to preach across America – arriving in Ireland the following year.” STOFIEL YOUTUBE VIDEO

“He was happy, actually”

For Imad, Thomas’ reasons for seeking asylum became less important than having him as a friend. When he arrived in Ireland, Imad spoke Arabic and a little French. Eric started helping her learn English first, then Thomas, to much greater effect. In fact, Imad started speaking English with an American accent. He beams at the memory.

“Thomas too, he was very busy,” says Imad. “At a restaurant in Tralee, downtown [working]. In the kitchen, kitchen janitor, he worked four, five days, sometimes six days, he liked work, he liked keeping busy, earning money, meeting people. He was actually happy.”

From blaming himself in his Youtube videos for craving cigarettes, now Thomas was smoking outside with his coffee, sitting with Imad. They smoked weed occasionally, like many of the residents. Shortly before, Thomas had accused his brother of similar behavior, of breaking scripture. But some of the old fire still burned and the incorrigible beliefs remained.

“If you see someone in front, you will know that if someone is 100% sanity – Thomas was not 100% sanity,” says Imad. “He told me that before he was a Christian, after he became a Jew. I told him that I was a Muslim, I pray every day in my room, I never had any problems. [We were] talk about the Koran and the Bible.

Turns out Thomas didn’t like Donald Trump, or any politician, but his own conspiracies were never far away. “He was always thinking about that. He asks me when we die, where are we going, he asks me about heaven and hell.

“Sometimes I’m scared, after that I’m scared.”


He went to the mountains, maybe 10 days, something like that, and then 10 days, no food, no water, nothing


Imad says Thomas spoke to his daughter regularly in Tralee, although according to Martin Elle, Thomas’s longtime friend in America, it could only have been once or twice. Did Thomas tell him where he was? What was he doing? Imad is not sure, but he could see the positive impact of this contact.

“His daughter. He always loved her, when he talked to her…when I remember him and feel that way…Sometimes twice a week [speaking to her]. Occasionally [for] one o’clock. He gives her advice.”

Thomas hadn’t been at Atlas House that long when, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he disappeared from the centre. According to Imad, “He went to the mountains, for maybe 10 days, something like that, then 10 days, no food, no water, nothing. When he came back, it was the first confinement. Everyone at Atlas House, if someone leaves the hostel for just 24 hours, they have to quarantine for two weeks, after that they have to come back to the hostel.”


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