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May 2, 2011 2:41 am
From Ms Mai Noman.
Sir, As a Yemeni studying for an MA in the UK, I feel it is my duty to share with you the difficulties a Yemeni goes through to travel, just as Sir Martin Broughton so kindly shared his experiences with us on behalf of those he says should travel without hassle (“BA chief lets fly at security checks”, April 19).
A Yemeni living in Yemen stands almost no chance of obtaining a visa to the west to study, work or visit for tourism, the reason being that all 24m Yemenis are “terrorism risks” or at least should be profiled as such. But that’s OK because, as Sir Martin put it, “we” need a “risk-based approach to security”, and I can only assume by “we” he meant westerners (ie, not terrorist threats). So for the very fortunate and very grateful few of us who, by the grace of the Lord (we call him Allah), managed to obtain a visa to study or work in the west, the travel experience is akin to defending oneself in court.
I truly wonder if Sir Martin has any idea of what it feels like to be constantly in a defensive position to prove that you are not a terrorist, to be always randomly selected at airports and questioned about your faith, to feel like a criminal when handing in your passport to immigration officers, while always having to remind yourself that the questions that follow are not discrimination against you personally but simply against your people.
The inconveniences Sir Martin speaks of are a treat for the rest of us. To be able to travel with a bit of airport hassle is a luxury we only dream of. So in response, I say it is desirable that insiders in positions of authority should undergo precisely the obligations and inconveniences that apply to mere mortals, if only to remind them how the other half lives. If Henry Kissinger is subjected to these attentions, as Sir Martin suggested, it may at least encourage regular assessment of the necessity for such intrusion for all. It would be particularly useful to extend this egalitarian approach to the oppressive and expensive visa requirements imposed on foreign nationals with a perfectly legitimate desire to travel.
Goldsmiths College, University of London
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