UPDATE: Oh, the poor man – it gets worse.
Jorge Cham, an American cartoonist who also happens to have a doctorate, regularly travels around North America and, lately, Europe, giving talks about his online cartoon, PhD Comics, graduate school in general, and procrastination. Though I’ve been reading PhD Comics since he first put them online (they began as a strip in the university student newspaper at Stanford), I’ve never had the pleasure of attending one of his talks.
I was delighted when I heard he would be giving a series here in Blighty, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend.
Imagine my mortification, then, when I read the latest update at his website. Those bastards at UKBA detained him at Heathrow, for no conceivable reason.
Funny – last time I came in through Heathrow, I was detained too, for no reason.
What the hell is going on with the Border Agency? Have they been given instructions to intimidate as far as possible any Americans entering the country, even if entirely legally, who do not fit the ‘tourist’ profile?
I don’t know what the legal niceties of being detained are, but having gone through it myself, I can assure you it is no picnic. Quite apart from the humiliation factor, it is actually detention, and whilst you wait to find out whether they’re going to stick you right back on another airplane, you have no access to communication whatsoever. You cannot phone a friend or a solicitor. You can’t do anything except sit there and hope that whatever arbitrary decision is made about you will be in your favour. You don’t even know whether the fact that you’ve done nothing illegal is enough to override the suspicion that you might one day do so.
People detained at borders have absolutely none of the civil protections granted to the lowest of the low criminals within those borders. The right to representation, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus – they have none of these. They can be shipped off, against their will, without ever having done anything wrong. I was angry enough about it when I thought UKBA were just persecuting me because of my visa history. Now I see they’re doing it to other people like me, with even less justification.
What the fuck.