Juhel Miah is a British citizen, a teacher accompanying students on a trip to Iceland and then, the plan was, to fly on to America. But it was not to be.
Mr Miah, aged 25, was born in Birmingham and brought up in Swansea. He attended Swansea University, where he got a first class degree, was one of five adults from Llangatwg community school near Neath, south Wales, who were accompanying a party of 39 children to New York via Iceland last week. He had no problem entering Iceland. But when it came to the next leg of the trip, flying on to the USA, everything changed.
At Keflavík international airport near Reykjavik, Mr Miah was immediately targeted by US officials. He told the Guardian:
I gave one of the American officials there my passport. My first name is Mohammed. It felt as if straight away she looked up and said: ‘You’ve been randomly selected for a security check.’
“Deep down I thought: ‘Here we go’ but I was polite and followed all the instructions. She took me into this room. There were five or six other officials. Two of them checked me. They made me take my jacket off, my hoodie off, they opened my bag, I took my shoes off. They made me stand on a stool. They rubbed me all the way down. They even pulled my trousers down to check my boxers. They rubbed their hands under my feet. They got a swab and wiped me all over. Eventually they let me go through.”
So he made it onto the plane. But that was not the end of his ordeal. Not at all. He was followed onto the Icelandair plane by an American official who told him he had to get off again. And he was refused permission to reboard the plane and fly on to the USA – without even being given a reason for this treatment. Instead he was forced to return to the UK, rather than being allowed to do his job and accompany his students to America.
The US officials refused to give a reason why he was being treated this way. And Mr Miah cannot think of a good reason. He has never posted anything at all inappropriate on social media. He has not been to any of the seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – whose citizens were the subject of Trump’s overturned travel ban. His parents are of Bangladeshi origin. His brother had no trouble visiting Florida last year. But now, with Trump in office, suddenly Mr Miah is persona non grata in the USA.
“I hope this isn’t true, I really don’t want this to be true but it all started with the first American official I met and the moment she read Mohammed.
“I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else. That’s my number one goal now. I want a reason, an explanation. If it was a mistake someone should just put their hands up and say it was a mistake and it won’t happen again. I would still like to go to America one day. I just hope it boils down to human error and someone says sorry.”
The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, has written to the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, asking for “urgent clarification”. The US has not commented.
Mr Miah has been very kind in his comments, but to a detached reader it is obvious he was targeted and removed from the flight – even though he had a valid travel visa – because he is a Muslim.
This might have an effect on his career. He was subjected to a humiliating, pointless search before boarding the plane – and then he was removed from the plane as if he was a criminal, with his colleagues and students watching. Through no fault of his own, Mr Miah has been stigmatised. The Donald Trump “No Muslim” policy is being enacted, even though it has been suspended by the US court. But, because no reason was given for his treatment, some might claim there was another reason for it. The “no smoke without fire” principle. Donald Trump’s ugly, bigoted, ignorant attitude is threatening an honest teacher’s life.
Why hasn’t the foreign secretary Boris Johnson summoned the US ambassador to explain this outrageous behaviour? Is the clown too busy bumbling around, trying to conceal his extreme right-wing politics from the British electorate? He is a vile man – but he is our vile man, and should be giving the US ambassador a harsh dressing down. But no, he won’t get a response – he won’t even ask for a response – because the Tory government’s “hard Brexit” plan means the country must prostrate itself before the eminence noir of “President” Trump. And good, hard-working people like Mr Miah count for nothing in the dangerous game our government are playing. Theresa May is getting into bed with Trump, literally as well as figuratively, and when she emerges bow-legged from the monster’s den she will pass the syphilis onto the rest of us. A syphilitic economy – that’s all we need – financial madness, removal of all the human rights we managed to gain from the EU – a political and moral sickness that is already dirtying our nation when our government connives with Trump to discriminate against British citizens on the basis of religion.