David Cameron is facing calls to challenge the US over their refusal to allow a British Muslim family to board a flight from Gatwick to Los Angeles, to visit Disneyland.
The family of 11 were denied access to their plane by US Department of Homeland Security officials… without explanation.
A UK politician is now calling on the British government to investigate.
The Guardian reports:
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, has written to the prime minister after a family party of 11, about to embark on a dream holiday for which they had saved for months, were approached by officials from US homeland security as they queued in the departure lounge and told their authorisation to travel had been cancelled, without further explanation.
Creasy said she is concerned that a growing number of British Muslims are saying they have had similar experiences of being barred from the US without being told the reasons for the exclusion.
The family, from Creasy’s constituency in north-east London, had applied for and were granted travel authorisation online some weeks before their scheduled 15 December flight.
Speaking to the Guardian, Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, who was travelling with his brother and nine of their children aged between eight and 19, said they had been given no explanation for the last minute cancellation, but he believed the reason was obvious: “It’s because of the attacks on America – they think every Muslim poses a threat.”
He said the children had been counting down the days to the trip for months, and were devastated not to be able to visit their cousins in southern California and go to Disneyland and Universal Studios, as planned.
Creasy believes a lack of information from US authorities is fuelling resentment within British Muslim communities.
“Online and offline discussions reverberate with the growing fear UK Muslims are being ‘trumped’ – that widespread condemnation of Donald Trump’s call for no Muslim to be allowed into America contrasts with what is going on in practice,” Creasy writes in an article for the Guardian. She said she was in contact with at least one other constituent who had had a similar experience.
Ajmal Mansoor, an imam and lecturer based in Bristol, spoke this week about his own experience being turned away from boarding a flight to New York on 17 December, after which he was told only that his travel authorisation had been revoked.
“I am baffled, annoyed and angry,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “USA has the right to issue and revoke visa – I fully understand that. However not forwarding any reasons infuriates ordinary people. It does not win the hearts and minds of people, it turns them off. I am amazed how irrational these processes are but does USA care about what you and I think? I don’t think so!”
The MP, having “hit a brick wall” in her own attempts to get answers from the American embassy, has asked the prime minister to press US officials for an explanation for the Mahmood family’s exclusion. She has also asked him to clarify whether the UK monitors the numbers and ethnic or religious background of those who are blocked from travelling, to “help reassure all UK citizens that no discrimination on the grounds of faith is happening at UK airports”.
Mahmood said neither he nor his brother, Mohammad Zahid Mahmood, had ever been in trouble with the police. They have been told by the airline they were to travel with that the £9,000 cost of their flights, for which they had been saving for many months, will not be refunded.
The family were escorted from the airport but were first obliged to return every item they had bought from the airport’s duty-free shops, he said. “I have never been more embarrassed in my life. I work here, I have a business here. But we were alienated.”
With no explanation of the reasons for their exclusion, he said, the family have no idea whether they will face similar treatment if they try to travel again in future. In particular, he said, he is concerned that he may never be able to visit the family of his other brother, a US citizen, who lives in southern California.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said Cameron would consider the issues raised in Creasy’s letter and respond in due course. The prime minister has described Trump’s remarks as “stupid, divisive and wrong”.