The holiday of a British family visiting Canada took a turn for the worse when they were arrested by US border authorities. Following a wrong direction Eileen, 24, and David Connors, 30, had accidentally crossed the northern US border with Canada, landing them and their family in a lot of trouble.
According to Fox News the couple and their three-month-old boy had been visiting Vancouver, with David's brother Michael, wife Grace and his two nephews. The two families were on the roads near the border when they took an unmarked track that led them south.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Michael who was driving said he was forced to take the route after swerving to avoid an animal. However, on this route the car was immediately set upon by US border patrol agents.
"They had no idea they had crossed any boundary," Bridget Cambria the lawyer representing the family, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They had no idea they were even in the United States. They were just trying to get back to their hotel."
Stopped in their car, the family were told that they had crossed an international border and they would not be allowed to proceed further or return to Canada.
"We asked if we couldn't simply turn around and the officer said no," Eileen Connors wrote in a statement which appeared in the Post-Gazette. "We kept repeating we did not want to be here. We were detained anyway and treated in a way that no human deserves to be treated."
The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has said they have access to their embassy while in custody, but would remain under detention.
Eileen Connors disputed this fact and described the experience similar to that of an "abduction or a kidnapping." The young family and their three-year-old were made to sleep on the floor with few covers.
"The memory of our little baby having to sleep on a dirty floor of a cell will haunt us forever," was quoted in the Post-Gazette.
Since their arrest the family were separated several times with David taken to a separate detention centre in Seattle. On October 5 they were moved from Seattle to Pennsylvania for processing at the Berks Detention Centre in Leesport where they are all currently being held.
"We will be traumatised for the rest of our lives by what the United States Government has done to us," the Eileen Connors wrote.
While in the facility she says her baby has developed health problems including skin irritations and an eye infection.
"We have been treated like criminals here, stripped of our rights and lied to … This would never happen in the United Kingdom to US citizens, or anyone else, because people there are treated with dignity."
On Tuesday ICE confirmed reports that the family were still being held in the Berks facility but denied mistreatment or claims that the conditions were inhumane.
"[Berks Family Residential Centre] provides a safe and humane environment for families as they go through the immigration process," ICE officials said in a statement. "BFRC supports all sanctioned local, state, and federal investigations into the safety and welfare of our residents. [Reports] of abuse or inhumane conditions at BFRC are unequivocally false," was the official statement.
Having been detained in Pennsylvania since October 5 the family were finally returned to UK soil on Wednesday night.
"It's great to be back," the family told the Daily Mail who were waiting at Heathrow for their American Airlines flight.
The family of seven were returned and issued with a ban from entering the United States for five years.
"'My baby got a cold in there and I wasn't even allowed to give him teething salt because the sachets were confiscated," Eileen told the Daily Mail.
"There were a few nice members of staff at the centre, our case worker Mary Shah and another worker called Nath. They were both lovely.
"But I'm glad I'm out of the place, it was absolutely awful. So run down."
The family's lawyer confirmed that they had been released from the detention centre on Wednesday but could not comment on the charges filed against them.
The US Customs Border Protection gave a statement on Wednesday saying that that it had tried to return the tourists to Canada but the country had refused their return.
In a statement contradicting the family's story, the Connors' car had been detected by video surveillance and seen "slowly and deliberately driving through a ditch onto Boundary Road in Blaine, Washington."
The CBP added that their records showed that two adult family members had previously been denied travel authorisation to visit the United States.