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Recruiting Spies at British Airports

Potential Spy | 03.08.2006 07:10 | Repression | Birmingham

I arrived late at Coventry Airport yesterday after a short 'holiday' in Holland. I was hoping to catch the last bus to Covetry city centre, then the last No. 900 to Birmingham, so as to avoid paying a fortune for a cap or bothering a friend with a pick-up. I was, however, the last passenger to leave the airport, well after my bus had gone, having experienced one of the strangest encounters in my life with the British authorities.

After filling in a Landing Form, which only non-EU passport holders have to fill (I have a British Refugee Travel Document for a passport), and being interrogated by a very serious woman about how long and when and where, I was approached by someone, in plain cloths, who claimed to be a police officer. At first I didn't quite understand why he picked me out of the 50 or so crowed: was it my dark hair, shortish beard or black rucksack? He asked to see my passport but, naturally, I didn't comply at once and asked him why and what powers he was using. Pointing to a "Terrorism Act 2000" leaflet stuck on the side of his desk, he asked me to follow him, almost shouting aloud, "If you're trying to be funny...". I was quite tired and not in the mood for confrontation, as I would normally be, so I just followed him to an Interviewing Room.

Inside, he showed me his badge and said he was from the Special Branch and had the powers to stop, search and ask me some questions. So, it's to do with 'terrorism', I thought to myself. He started by filling in another Landing Card, this time for Terrorism Act purposes rather than immigration ones. It also stated at the bottom that, in addition to the this information (personal details, basically), I may be required to answer a few questions. Then he went off "for two minutes", leaving me alone in the room.

After more than 10 minutes, Mr Police Officer returns with the card in his hand. He asks me a few more questions about my background, profession, the languages I speak and the like.
"Are you Muslim?" he then asks all of a sudden.
"No, I'm an atheist," I reply smiling.
"But you come from a Muslim background?"
"That doesn't make me a Muslim, does it?"
Then, "Have you ever been to a mosque?" "Do you have Muslim friends?" bla bla bla. Then, "So most of your friends are Kurdish, no?" his toungue slips.
"How do you know I'm Kurdish?" I ask him. The man has obviously made his phone calls.

Getting nowhere, he asks to see my wallet. For some reason, I had an old press ID on me.
"So you work for this Lebanese paper?" he asks.
"Not any more," I reply.
"You don't have to answer this, but what do you think about the current events in Lebanon?" And I tell him, bluntly, what I think of the Israeli war crimes and the Western powers' complicity. "And that includes Britain," I stress.

Then comes my bag's turn. He goes through my smelly cloths and stuff, then asks me to turn on my laptop. Well, luckily, the battery was dead and the power supply had a lock on, to which he didn't have a key.

Finally, he looks at me and says the following, almost word for word:
"As I told you at the beginning, I am from the Special Branch (and I interrupt and remind him that he actually did only when we got into the room, and that's why I was acting 'funny' in the first place). "Occasionally I pick some people with Travel Documents to ask them a few questions (and I interrupt again and say I wasn't the only one today)." Then, to my utter shock, he says:
"Would you like to speak to some people?"
"How do you mean?"
"Like, someone with your background and qualifications..."
"Are you trying to recruit me as a spy?" I shout, unbelieving my ears.
"Not a spy..." But I had already stood up and was ready to leave:
"No, thanks. I don't work for bloody governments."
"I see," he says smiling and leads me to the door.
"I can't believe you made me miss my bus for this! It's so unbelievably absurd."

As I leave the building, I ask him sarcastically: "Are you gonna give us a lift now, then?"
"I can't do that, I'm afraid," he replies.
Not any more, obviously.

On reflection, I now realise how stupid it was to leave just like that, without trying to get some information as to what he was up to; what sort of 'job' he was offering me etc. I can't even remember his name and number. But then, it really surprised me and, let alone tired and cold, I was so pissed off that I would have to pay for a cap more than what I'd paid for the plane ticket.

Potential Spy


Display the following 5 comments

  1. Should at least have got a free lift from him! — Arthur
  2. only half Kurdish — Potential Spy
  3. refugee from what? — bad george
  4. huh? — george
  5. Can't believe it's true... — Laurène