News

Aussie traveller held in US prison for overlooked entry requirement

An Aussie traveller who attempted to visit the US was sent to prison, cavity searched and deported due to a little-known US entry requirement.

Jack Dunn, a Victorian uni student, applied for a visa waiver for his trip to the US. He also planned on travelling to Mexico afterwards and had been warned that he’d need to prove his plan to exit America.

Jack Dunn, the man who was held in US prison for forgetting one component of his trip

The Victorian originally spent more than half a year saving for this trip. He had enough for 3-4 months of travel and wanted to see the NBA playoffs, then go backpacking across Mexico and South America.

Dunn was unaware of the rule that requires travellers entering the US on the waiver to have booked a return flight or flights on to another country that doesn’t border the US.

He arrived in Honolulu, but was refused entry to the US and put in federal prison until he could get on a return flight to Australia, The Guardian reported.

After arrival, he was put in an interrogation room without Wi-Fi, and because he didn’t have a local sim card, he couldn’t access the internet.

Dunn claims that at one point an airline worker offered him his phone to book a flight from Mexico to a third country. He tried booking a flight to Panama, but didn’t have enough in his debit card account and couldn’t transfer money to his savings as he didn’t have internet access.

He then tried booking a cheaper flight to Guatemala but an officer entered the room and made Dunn return the phone back to the airline worker.

The Guardian reported that a transcript of the interrogation revealed Dunn was denied entry to the US as he did not “possess a ticket, valid for at least one year to any foreign place/port other than a contiguous territory or adjacent island unless they permanently reside there.

“You are inadmissible for admission into the United States … because of your inability to overcome the presumption of an intended immigrant. You have no ties or equities to your home country or sufficient funds to support yourself for your intended period of stay,” he was told at the end of the interrogation.

Dunn said that he was handcuffed and taken to the Federal Detention Centre in Honolulu, where he was cavity searched before being admitted.

He was then taken to prison and reportedly was placed in a cell with another prisoner who smeared feces and blood on the wall. The Guardian reported that he was told to sleep on a concrete floor with a paper bag for a pillow.

“Once the police dropped me off, you’re in a prison, so the guards and inmates there have no idea what you’re there for, they just assume this kid has done something bad,” Dunn said.

“They treat you like a criminal, they treat you like shit.”

He spent about 30 hours in the detention centre and then caught a flight back to Sydney.

He has attempted to go on a different holiday in Thailand but had several panic attacks while overseas and had to return to Australia

Dunn is not the only one to be caught out by this rule as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed this is not the first case of this nature.

He has called on the DFAT to advertise the entry rule on its Smartraveller website so others can avoid the experience.

“Obviously it should be added to the Smartraveller website, because everyone goes there to check the rules. I don’t want anyone else going through what I went through, it’s just not right,” Dunn said.



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