This Human Voice story forms part of CAGE’s report Schedule 7: Harassment at Borders
See the rest of the report here
‘I said “I’m with my kids”. The officer said: “We will take your kids away”.’
I am 37 years old, and I live in London. I became a Muslim in 2001. I got married 2004/5 and I have six children, two with my previous wife and four with my current wife. When I was stopped I was with three of my children.
This stop in particular was because of what happened last year the same time at the same terminal. I was stopped by an officer last year and knowing what was going on, I quite blankly rebuffed his requests.
He was adamant that I had to come into the back to speak to him and I refused. I said I could answer questions at the desk. It caused a bit of a commotion, but in the end they questioned me at the desk.
This time, I saw the counter-terrorism officer at the desk, and I knew they wanted to stop me because of what had happened last time. So when I was questioned by the immigration officer, and asked to go to the back, I refused because I didn’t want to be separated from my children.
I said ‘I’m with my kids’. The officer said: “We will take your kids away”.
When he said that, I fixed my rucksack firmly on my back, with both straps. I put it on tightly, as if I was preparing for something. This was an instinctive reaction. The officers saw this, and suddenly about six or eight of them jumped on me and physically dragged me off.
Someone was holding my head down so I couldn’t see my children. I was shouting. I was telling people there to record what was going on.
I couldn’t see my kids. I was trying to speak to them, and I told my children to go ahead, to just go through. I thought they would be fine as their mom was just waiting for them on the other side.
My kids were just left standing there. They must have been terrified; one of them was just three years old.
I was taken to the back office and detained
My concern at this stage was just my kids and what was happening to them. I assumed the kids would be okay if they just went through. But I was made aware that this is not exactly what happened.
They didn’t know what to do about the children. It was only when the border control officer stepped in, that they decided to do something with the children. My wife didn’t really know where they were.
I don’t know where they were taken. For about 30 minutes they were without their parents, and they didn’t know what was going to happen to them.
Of course my wife was very, very anxious, not seeing me or her children come through.
When they detained me, they read me the Schedule 7 law. I said to them: ‘I am not going to talk to you, you’re taking my children away from me’.
Imagine someone separates you from your children and then they start asking you all these silly questions, while all the time you’re just thinking about what is happening to your children?
They charged me with obstructing the Schedule 7 law. I was arrested and taken to the police station. My wife had to leave the airport without me, but she had the children with her. I was held at police station for 22 hours.
During that time I saying to myself, these people are pathetic, really, that this whole thing was completely unnecessary. I mean, I have done nothing.
But this law is something that they have been pursuing for years, and after being stopped as many times as I have, you get to a zero-tolerance stage.
If you stop someone multiple times, you’re going to gather what you can gather
They are really wasting taxpayers’ money more than anything else. But for them, it’s a success because they are getting convictions. They’re pushing the numbers up.
You can never tell the long-term effects of these things on children. There is a lot of stress, and you really just can’t tell how this is going to play out later on in their lives.
As for me, I am not going to let this stop me. After the trial, and the court decision, I am still travelling. In fact, I am going this Friday.
I think British counter-terrorism policy it’s not justly implemented. People who have done nothing wrong, that police just might not like the look of, or have a grudge against for some reason, are being targeted disproportionately. If you stop someone multiple times, you’re going to gather what you can gather.
If the stops were justified, then something would come of them. But nothing comes of this. It’s just like they’ve set out and they are trying to give me a heart attack.
It’s important for Muslims to understand that this is going on. I hope for all of us to agree on this matter and help each other, in the masjid, and in the community.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)