Socialist Worker

Questioned by immigration officials

by Explo Nani-Kofi, Stop the War Coalition steering committee
Issue No. 2149

On 15 January I was travelling to a conference against imperialism in Beirut. An official took me aside at Heathrow airport. He asked why I still use the UK Travel Document after 19 years in Britain. This was originally issued to me so I could travel abroad when I had no passport because I was a refugee.

I explained that I had not applied for British citizenship, only residency, so I could only use the Travel Document.

I didn’t expect any more problems. I went through immigration formalities with those who have passports from UK and the EU when I returned to London.

Before long I had to travel to Lome in Togo, West Africa. This time I was stopped at the airport by two people at the boarding gate. I was questioned about my Travel Document again and also asked what I went to do in Beirut in January. I was told that I couldn't board the plane until they had checked if I was a suspected terrorist.

Once they had made their checks and told me I could go, I asked the one who had been asking the questions for his name. He said, “Dave, the policeman, that’s all you’ll get”.

Things were worse on my return. As before I queued with British passport holders, but an immigration official told me that I had to move to the queue for people from other countries.

As I only have a UK Travel Document this seemed strange, but I did what I was told. When I finally got to the desk I was told that I should not have written that I am a permanent resident in Britain.

This is despite the fact that my letter of residence from the Home Office reads “you have been granted indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom as a refugee… This means you are free to stay in this country permanently.”

The official altered the note at his desk and wrote that I am a temporary resident in UK.

I have registered to attend the Cairo Anti-War Conference from 14 to 17 May. I am extremely worried what will happen at the airport when I travel.


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Tue 28 Apr 2009, 19:01 BST
Issue No. 2149
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