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Government asked to intervene in the case of British Muslim teacher denied entry to US

31st Mar 2017
Government asked to intervene in the case of British Muslim teacher denied entry to US

Juhel Miah was banned from flying from Reyk javik, Iceland to New York with his students (Photo:Twitter)

Nadine Osman

The Liberal Democrat Equalities Spokeswoman asked the Government to intervene in and follow-up the case of a Swansea-born Muslim teacher who was denied entry to the US during a school trip on February 16.

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece asked Foreign Office (FCO) Minister, Baroness Anelay, in the House of Lords on February 27, what the FCO is doing in the case of Juhel Miah, who was travelling with his students and other teachers from Llangatwg Comprehensive school in Aberdulais, Wales. He was banned from flying from Reykjavik, Iceland, with his entourage to New York by security personnel.

“It seems that he was blocked in Reykjavik from boarding a plane for no other reason than that he is a Muslim…Are these sorts of cases being monitored and followed up, and what representation is being made about this outrage? ” asked the Peer.

Baroness Anelay did not address whether the FCO “followed up” the case but explained it is “not always notified when somebody holding a British passport is denied entry or, indeed, detained upon entry. We can only be sure of knowing about it if they notify us, given that the US does not commonly hold those records and there is no international rule that any country must do so.”

Miah, 25, who is not a dual national, said he was made to feel like “a criminal” and was so worried by his ordeal that he did not eat or sleep for two days. He said that shortly before the flight was due to leave he was approached by an official who told him he was barred from flying.

“Everyone was looking at me, as I was getting my luggage; the teachers and kids were confused. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was being escorted out. It made me feel like a criminal. I couldn’t speak, I was lost for words,” Miah said.

“We got to the airport, and as soon as we got to check in, the lady behind the desk read my passport and then straight away said ‘you’ve been selected for a random security check’. She took me to a room, made me stand on a stool, asked me to take my shoes off, jacket off, checked under my foot, got a swab to brush over my hand and bag, my clothing and school hoodie. They gave me the all clear and then I went. The search was about five minutes. There were five or six people in the room, two searched me.”

He was taken to a hotel. “I was waiting for two hours for a room. It was horrendous. There were holes in the sheets, a dirty bag under the bed, the light wasn’t working and only the lamp was working. My phone battery was dying so I went to my suitcase, and that’s when I realised the padlock was missing. It had gone. I was so paranoid, I was scared, I didn’t sleep or eat for two days.”

“I am not getting an explanation for what happened.”

Neath Port Talbot Council has written to the US Embassy demanding an explanation. A Council spokesman described Miah’s ordeal as “an unjustified act of discrimination”.

The spokesman said he was denied travel to the US “despite being issued with a valid visa for travel. Mr Miah is a popular and respected teacher at Llangatwg comprehensive school. He is a Welsh Muslim.

“We are appalled by the treatment of Mr Miah and are demanding an explanation. The matter has also been raised with our local MP. No satisfactory reason has been provided for refusing entry to the United States – either at the airport in Iceland or subsequently at the US Embassy in Reykjavik. Mr Miah attempted to visit the Embassy but was denied access to the building. Understandably he feels belittled and upset at what appears to be an unjustified act of discrimination.”

A Council spokesperson told The Muslim News: “We understand that the Foreign Office is in discussion with the US authorities and are awaiting the outcome. The Council continues to support the school and Mr Miah”.

Neath Port Talbot Council pointed out that UK Government advice states: “We have confirmed with the US government that British passport holders (regardless of country of birth or whether they hold another passport/nationality) aren’t affected by the executive order.”

The Council said Miah’s experience casts serious doubts on whether either of the statements could be relied upon.

The Muslim Council of Wales (MCW) slammed “the latest in a series of incidents in which Muslims have been denied access to the US, which do in fact predate Trump and his Muslim ban”. They also described Miah’s ban as a case of “outright Islamophobic discrimination”.

Trump’s travel ban was unveiled at the end of his first week in office. In its original form, the order temporarily suspended all travel to the US for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya for 90 days. The order was put on hold by the courts and a revised version has not yet been signed.

Neath Labour AM, Jeremy Miles, said he was appalled to hear about the incident. He said he would be raising the issue with the Welsh Government to ask them to make representations to the British Government.

On the February 10, a US appeals court had upheld a decision to suspend Trump’s executive order that temporarily banned entry to the country from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, both assured British Muslims they will not be affected by the travel ban. The FCO has refused to comment on Miah’s case.

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