CAGE launches a new initiative named “Human Voices in the War on Terror”. It will seek to uncover the true human cost of government counter terrorism measures. Written in the first person, they provide an unparalleled insight into what it feels like to be on the receiving end of terrorism legislation. These are real life stories and cases we at CAGE have assisted. The only alteration is to the names, which have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of those, involved.

The first is the story of ‘Ahmed’ who was stopped on his return from a business trip in Belgium. He was stopped at Calais under Schedule 7 where he experienced unwarranted hostility from the authorities: “it’s definitely not free here any longer”.

“I work in car recovery, and during my last trip I went to Belgium to collect a vehicle. I travelled with a friend. At approximately 11pm or 10pm GMT, immigration police at Calais stopped us. I was told that my passport was stolen so they needed to check it out. I immediately protested as I knew this was a farce. I asked them why it had not been a problem less then 3hrs ago when I’d entered the country. They informed me that passports are not checked at the exit, only at the entry”.

“My friend and I were not allowed to contact a solicitor. We were kept waiting in the car for 2.5 hours. An hour into the stop I asked why we were still being held. The officer told me in a very hostile way that they were waiting for the police to get there from Kent. They kept on telling me “were dealing with it, just checking out your passport”.

“When Kent counter-terrorism police arrived, they demanded we exit the car. I was very angry and to be honest wanted to lash out from frustration and anger. But I locked myself and my friend in the car and said I wouldn’t get out until we had legal representation”.

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“Eventually, my friend gave in to the pressure, as he also had work early the next morning, and we opened the doors. I was then informed I would be stopped under schedule 7. The police officers were extremely hostile and prejudiced. The fact that I looked like a Muslim and had travelled to Kenya before, was enough to suspect me of being a ‘terrorist’”.

“I have been stopped at immigration before returning from international travels, but that took on average 1.5 hours. It never took this long”.

“It didn’t occur to me to think about Kenya and what was happening there. I have visited all of East Africa as I have family all around there. I got my visa from the Kenyan embassy in the UK as my dad worked there. Last year I went to see my family on the east coast of Africa, including Kenya. I had never been questioned about these travels, until this stop. The police had a lot of details about my life and background, which was a surprise”.

“I insisted that I be allowed to record the interview, or at least they record it and provide me with a copy. They refused. They also brushed aside my repeated requests to speak to a lawyer”.

“Then they suggested that if I supported them and provided them with information they would pay me. They said it in a seedy and shady way, so that it didn’t come directly out of their mouths”.

“Now, I do not do jobs that require that I leave the country. This was the best way to earn an income of course. I plan to go back home for the summer as it has reached a level where looking like a Muslim in the UK is now seen as a threat. If you want to practise your religion then it is best to leave and go to where you can practise it freely, because it is definitely not free here any longer.”

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CC image courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

(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.)