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How I Got Detained At The Manchester Airport

Detained Manchester Airport

In early 2010, I spent a lot of time travelling around Europe. Coming from the U.S., and having a lot of English friends made England the ideal hub. For those of you who don’t already know, Europe is famous for their discounted airlines like RyanAir and Easyjet. You can sometimes get flights for mainly just the cost of the taxes, and England is one of the best hubs to get these specials from. This meant I was in and out of the country on a semi-regular basis over a 3-4 month period, but all completely legit, not breaking any posted rules or regulations.

Everything was good until one night flying in from Munich. It was a late flight, I think the last of the day arriving at the Manchester Airport. I got to the front of the customs line, and the woman looked over my passport. She was not particularly rude or friendly, just very neutral which was fine because usually I’ve found the English border agents always seem to be having bad days. She began asking a lot of questions, which happens sometimes, but then the questions evolved into more detail than normal, and she began asking me if I knew anyone in the country. I said yes, she asked if they’d be willing to vouch for me, I said yes and gave her 2 friends info. Without attempting to contact them, she continued interrogating me in excess detail for a standard border crossing, until reading upside down I saw she had a form that said she was detaining me. She took my passport and had me sit down in front of her.

Apparently she thought I was smuggling drugs or something. 20 minutes later I saw her putting on her coat and saying goodbye to her co-workers (this was at around midnight or something), and she left work. I got the attention of another worker and he had to take over processing me. After waiting for 30-45 minutes with nobody around, he walked up and called me over. He explained how they didn’t like my history of going in and out of the country, and that they were going to search me and my bags, then took me through customs to the baggage claim. 3 other agents came over as they opened my bag, took out EVERYTHING, and went through every piece of paper asking me about every single name and phone number I had written down.

After finding nothing uncommon, the man took me into his office and explained that he was to determine if I was going to be allowed in the country or not. He interviewed me for another 30-45 minutes about where I’d been, where I live back home, what I do back home and where my money comes from, where I’m going next, why I’d been in and out so much, etc. He asked me the same questions over and over trying to trip me up. When he felt he had covered all bases he left the room again for about 15 minutes, then finally came back with my passport. He told me that because I had an outgoing flight to South Africa for World Cup a month later, he would let me in the country, but that if I were to come to the UK again in the next 3 years, they’d send me back wherever I came from. He hinted that their suspicions had gone from me being a drug mule, to me taking advantage of their public services which a tourist is not entitled to. I don’t know why they’d assume this as they already required proof of my financial stability and ability to support myself without their public benefits. I also don’t know how they don’t have access to this information in their systems. This guy was at least semi-friendly, but the whole situation was absurd considering I did nothing wrong according to their published border policies.

At the end of the day, I broke no rules and was completely cooperative, but still have questions about whether I’m allowed in the country or not. I’ve since transferred for a flight at London Heathrow Airport without a problem, but that’s not the same as entering the country. A warning to anyone who plans to be in and out of the UK a lot: they don’t really like that, whenever possible have your trips planned with exit flights booked and printed out.

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