Our reception at the airport

August 14, 2006 at 3:32 pm (Personal)

When we landed, we were informed that we needed to have our passports and customs forms in our hands in order to disembark. This was a new declaration but not unexpected. What was unexpected (although it should not have been) was what awaited us right outside the airplane’s door. As soon as we stepped out, there were armed uniformed police officers – around seven to ten. We held up our passports as we passed by them.

As soon as we exited the tunnel-thingy, there were more uniformed police officers. They could have been armed, I do not recall. Most of them were women. Every passenger was interrogated. I was asked:
Where did you come from?
Where did you visit?
How long were you there?
Why did you go?
Who were you with?

I answered them effortlessly, of course. My father, whom I joined after I was done, was a bit flustered. I doubt he expected this. After he was done, the police officer took my passport and I told her I was already questioned. I said I was with him, pointing to my father. She demanded to know what relationship we had. My father answered, “Father” pointing to me, “son” pointing to himself. I simply said, “He’s my father.” Although a little uneasy, she let us through.

After that was done, everything else went through as usual. The customs card was marked by the woman who interrogated my father, and he and I were trying to figure out whether there was any way to tell what the markings may say. When we gathered our bags – people had more bags then usual, thanks to the ban on most carry-ons – we went to the customs area. He took one look at our card and waved us to go through the red channel, where they might inspect our baggage. This was different. The officer had showed us a customers declarations card, to indicate which card he was talking about, and I noticed it was crossed in blue. Ours was crossed in green.

In front of us was a gentleman with about four suitcases. There were two girls in the line to our right, each with about three or four suitcases. They would talk to the gentleman every now and then. Then came a woman with, I kid not, about ten carry-on-sized bags stacked on her card. She went in front of us, behind the man. The two girls started moving to stand behind her. I demanded to know whether she was in line, and she informed us that the gentleman in front of us was her husband. Great. We were stuck behind four Arabs with more than 15 pieces.

The guy who would tell the people where to go told them to leave their baggage on the side and take a seat. The gentleman began arguing with him over something, but the officer was firm: put your bags to the side and take a seat. This will take a long time. The officer took one look at our bags – four pieces between two people – and took our card and waved us through. No inspection.

Should I cry racial profiling? Should I lodge a complaint with the ACLU for such intrusion? Pfah. No. This is what should happen.

It seems that certain gates are dedicated to flights from England. I doubt one wants to keep shuffling police officers from gate to gate. When we landed, we had to wait. The pilot said our gate was busy. Which meant there was a gate predesignated for us, which is always the case. This would especially be the case now, considering this was a flight from England.

Another flight had come in from London Heathrow. Although some people on our flight had small carry-on bags (such as myself) and plastic bags (such as my father), most people from the flight from Heathrow were carrying transparent bags – the bags looked the same; provided by the airport I imagine. But I suspect then went through the same grilling as we did.

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