Black woman compensated after being stopped at UK airport because she 'looked foreign'

Black woman compensated after being stopped at UK airport because she 'looked foreign'
Published: 2016 July 20 19:42:16 (6900 Views)
The Home Office has paid out £2,000 to a black woman who claimed she was stopped at Belfast airport by an immigration officer who said she 'looked foreign and not from here'.

The British mother-of-two said an official made the remark after she had been stopped and ordered to provide identification at George Best Belfast City Airport.

She has since received an apology from the Home Office after claiming she had been racially discriminated, the Northern Ireland Equality Commission has said.

The incident unfolded after the woman - who lives in Northern Ireland having previously lived in England - dropped her mother-in-law off for a flight. 

'I thought then, and I still think now, that I was stopped because I am black,' said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

'I wasn't travelling, or passing through an immigration point, and I am a British citizen. I was doing what many other people do without incident, dropping off my relative for her flight.

'One of my children has asked me if we now have to carry our passports everywhere with us.'

The case, which was taken with the support of the Equality Commission, was settled without admission of liability by the Home Office.

The woman said she and her children were forced to stand around in a public concourse of the airport while the officer radioed through to colleagues to check her immigration status.

The woman said, when she was first approached and asked to produce her passport or ID, the officer told her she 'looked foreign and not from here'.

The mother said she explained that she was not an air passenger and was only there to drop off her mother-in-law. She was eventually told her immigration status was okay and she was allowed to proceed.

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the NI Equality Commission, said he found the case 'extremely disturbing'.

'In effect it has left a woman feeling she has been singled out and had her identity questioned in full public gaze,' he said.

'And if a person feels, as this woman did, that they are singled out because of their skin colour, it can be particularly upsetting and humiliating - as it was for our complainant and her children, who witnessed the event.

'Our complainant makes a valuable contribution to Northern Ireland society and it is quite simply unacceptable that she feels she was challenged in a public place only because of the colour of her skin.

'It is simply unacceptable that people continue to be stereotyped by virtue of their race, gender or any other similar personal characteristic. It is vital that we challenge such simplistic stereotyping of people.

'The irony of this case is that this woman doesn't feel she can be publicly identified because of the fear of negativity or intimidation. She accepts however, that as the issue raises matters of national concern it needs to be made public.

'The Equality Commission will give advice to anyone who feels they may have been treated unfairly and we can assist people to challenge discrimination in the courts and tribunals.'

The Equality Commission said: 'The Home Office, in settling the claim without admitting liability, has apologised to the woman for any offence caused.

'It has also recognised the hurt, distress and offence caused to her by subjecting her to questioning in these circumstances and in the manner of investigation of her complaints.

'It has affirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity and has undertaken to ensure its practices and procedures conform with the Race Relations Order.' 

Source - Daily Mail


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