I was going to title this letter "Locked Up Abroad" but I thought that would be too dramatic and might worry people. However, I was in fact "Detained Abroad" at Heathrow on June 6th. For about seven hours. The perks: free hot chocolate and sandwiches, very kind and catering “guards” and interesting company from around the world. The obvious downside: the fear of being shipped right back to where you came from on another 10 hour flight. Which is what I thought was going to happen.
Still not exactly sure why. I am forbidden from reentering the UK for six months may have a hard time entering any country in the EU till 2017 when I get a new passport. There is literally, and figuratively a “black stamp” on my passport. But I am out of the lock up and have detainee photos as well as a certificate of detainment as souvenirs. What a start to a trip.
The immigration official took one look at me and said “We have some trouble.” One look – no questions, just a look. At which point he began asking a series of questions – all of which I answered incorrectly. He was also obsessed with the one day I spent in Macau, China. Several hours later, I was taken to some sort of holding area, fingerprinted (all ten individually and a hand print – they are not messing around), photographed, and interviewed (seven pages, recorded, with my signature on every page). A few more hours later, the official met with his superior, who agreed to let me out.
The immigration guy said, “Someone must really like you”. I thought he meant God, I had been praying. It was actually lawyers. When immigration called my internship, my internship called their lawyers (really fancy, $500/ hour, high rise downtown type lawyers – working pro bono).
Two weeks later, the same lawyers told me I needed to leave the country.