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Ryanair apologises after Arab Spring activist prevented from boarding flight to Dublin

Ryanair has issued an apology after an Arab Spring activist was prevented from boarding a flight to Dublin today.

Iyad El-Baghdadi said he was denied boarding at Berlin airport this morning because he was a refugee.

Mr El-Baghdadi is a prominent human rights activist and writer who attracted international attention during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Born in Kuwait and raised in the UAE, he secured political asylum in Norway in 2015.

He said on Twitter: "I'm at the airport in Berlin and I'm being denied boarding by @Ryanair because I'm a refugee. I'm heading to Dublin. The Irish government website says I can travel but @Ryanair says I can't. If you love me, make some noise."

There was no reason given for the refusal, he said.

"I don't blame the gate agents or even the supervisor for that matter. Institutional discrimination is structural and not personal," Mr El-Baghdadi said.

"I don't feel good about them but I don't hate them or fault them. My insults were directed at Ryanair, not a particular person."

Ryanair said the incident was due to an error by a handling agent at the airport and offered Mr El-Baghdadi an alternative flight and compensation.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, a spokesperson for the airline said: "This customer was denied boarding because of an error made by our handling agent in Berlin. Ryanair has since made contact with the customer directly and he will travel with us later today. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused".

Mr El-Baghdadi has since confirmed that he will arrive in Dublin at 7.45pm, more than seven hours after his original flight was scheduled to arrive.

He is travelling to the city for a meeting and will now spend less than 24 hours in the country before he travels onwards to Oslo.

Mr El-Baghdadi said he had checked with the Irish embassy before travelling that he would be permitted to enter the country and says he presented a printout from a government webpage to staff at Berlin airport.

The Department of Justice and Equality says on its website that holders of a Convention travel document issued in accordance with Article 28 of the Geneva Convention are permitted for short stays of up to 90 days in Ireland.

Holders of such documents are exempt from an Irish visa requirement for short stays if they are issued by a European State which is a contracting party to the "European Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees".

Norway is included as one of the countries on this list.

The Irish Refugee Council said in response to Mr El-Baghdadi's comments on Twitter that it was "not the first time we have heard of people being refused travel". The Council said that Ryanair and Irish Government guidance is clear and that "perhaps more training and awareness raising [is] needed for ground staff" at the airline.