People who travel to Tenerife for a dentist appointment risk criminal prosecution, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said.
He was speaking after it emerged that at least 50 Irish had phoned or emailed the Tenerife Sur dental clinic to request an appointment letter or email. None showed up for their appointments.
They did so because the government is fining travelers € 500 each, soon to be € 2,000, for leaving the country without a “reasonable excuse”.
Speaking on The Late Late Show, Mr Harris said the guard had changed his approach. “We warn people that they can be sued if they continue their trip and we do not consider a dentist appointment in Tenerife to be reasonable,” he said.
“We say, ‘It is not a reasonable reason to travel and we give the order not to travel. If you continue your journey. In fact, you may have committed two different offenses which will be the subject of a subpoena.
“We found that the € 500 fine is not the deterrent we thought it could be, but we found that people actually turned around rather than being sued and in fact a criminal record and risk imprisonment or a suspended sentence, which is far greater penalty than a € 500 flat-rate fine notice. We hope this will send a message in terms of non-essential international travel. “
Mr Harris said people traveling abroad for genuine medical reasons were still free to do so.
The staff of the Tenerife Sur dental clinic in Tenerife are ready to pass on the contact details of the Irish who have sought appointments there to the gardaí or to the local police.
Receptionist Roberta Beccaris said she was puzzled as to why so many Irish wanted to visit their clinic. They do not specialize in “dental tourism” like some foreign dentists do and do not advertise in Ireland.
“The last two weeks have been crazy. They were constantly calling and emailing, ”she told the Irish Times.
“The only problem is that they don’t come. I get 10 or 15 emails every day and today I got even more.
Ms Beccaris said they had answered a dozen calls or emails in the past two days, but were no longer responding.
She said the requests included a woman who said she was seriously suffering from a toothache and had requested an appointment for two weeks on February 25.
“If you’re in pain, you don’t come to the dentist in two weeks. It’s just a way for them to travel. We are happy when tourists come, but it is not the right way, ”she said.
“If these were real patients, we would be happy to help, but unfortunately they are not. This causes us problems because we make appointments to people who do not need our care. They waste our time.
“If we get a request from the police, we have all the information,” she said.
After her appearance on RTÉ Radio 1’s Today program with Claire Byrne Show, Ms. Beccaris responded to several calls from Irish people still trying to keep their dates.
Two Irishmen who were due to show up for a lunchtime meeting on Friday failed to do so.
According to RTÉ’s Prime Time program, the National Immigration Office has noticed that on some flights to sunnier climates, between 30% and 40% of people traveling have dental appointments waiting for them.
News that the Irish are using bogus employment letters or bogus dentist appointments to bypass Covid-19 restrictions has made the local Tenerife newspaper.
The Diario de Avisos noted that an Irish traveler was fined € 500 for claiming he was going to secure a security system at a hotel in Tenerife.