Two EU citizens with Settled Status in the UK, travelling on their European passports, were recently told by the staff of two airlines, EasyJet and Ryanair, to produce “additional ID” to be able to fly back home to the UK. How the hostile environment is being delegated to private companies.
First published: June 2022.
At the weekend I was flying back home after a week of training in Spain. I was pulled out of a line of passengers and had my right to board my flight questioned repeatedly.
I provided from the beginning my Romanian passport and boarding pass. For airline staff, it wasn’t enough. I showed them my bank cards and proof of my indefinite leave to remain through the Home Office website. They stared blankly at it and had no idea what it was. I didn’t have other forms of ID with me – I don’t have a driving licence and I didn’t have my national ID card with me.
I got pulled aside from the queue and had to watch as others were boarding. I felt so alone and helpless, having to justify over and over again my right to be allowed to get back to the country I’ve called home for over 10 years.
I found the strength to point out how this was not in line with any official guidance and it was wrong to single out European passport holders in this way. I didn’t give up and stood up for myself. If I didn’t work for the3million, I would have been standing in that airport looking at the plane taking off, confused and questioning what I’d done wrong to deserve this treatment.
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The very next day, my colleague Lara Parizotto was exactly in the same situation with Ryanair in Barcelona. Airline staff admitted these checks they claimed to be “random” were actually targeting certain nationalities, including Italian, Greek, and French.
Going through this, the reality of the precarity of my immigration status struck me again. If I had physical proof of my immigration status, this wouldn’t have happened. I was clearly told a visa would be good enough for them to let me through. I showed them my digital-only visa and was faced with blank stares. So it’s clear to me my status is precarious.
At the3million we have had reports of people denied boarding before, being asked for physical proof of status when such physical proof does not exist. This is highly problematic and we have had extended correspondence with the Home Office on this subject.
Just last March they reaffirmed to us that Home Office guidance to carriers says they “only need to check they have a valid passport or national identity card”. However, there is contradicting and confusing language in the Home Office charging guidance, which makes airlines liable for EU passengers who may be denied entry to the UK.
At the end of the day, for me, this is another example of how the hostile environment is being delegated to private companies. Staff who are not trained to properly carry out checks end up making up and enforcing their own rules.
Many pointed out they acquired British citizenship to not have to face this kind of hostility. A few days after these incidents, award-winning Jennifer Makumbi, who has British citizenship, was denied boarding on a Ryanair flight from Brussels to Manchester.
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For me, this shows how the bureaucracy and force we face from the authorities is significantly amplified when race is a factor as well. I recognise I will never face anything close to the hostility racialised people face. I stand in solidarity and want to shine a light on every injustice and remove them.
I made the choice to move to another country. I followed the rules and did everything “right”. I am still at the mercy of every person with even a shred of authority who is enforcing this government’s hostile environment. But I’m not alone. Together we can continue to bring light to injustice, in all of its forms, and demand change.
If you have experienced problems while travelling, please report it to us. Our stories, together, can and will make a difference.
- Two UK residents travelling on EU passports ‘asked for extra ID’ to fly home | The Independent
- Document checks and charges for carriers | Home Office
- Author with British citizenship barred from flight home to UK | The Guardian
- Problems with your immigration status? Report it! | the3million
— AUTHORS —
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- Text: This piece was originally published in the3million newsletter and re-published in PMP Magazine on 7 June 2022, with the authors’ consent. | The authors write in a personal capacity.
- Cover: Unsplash/Portuguese Gravity. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)