UK seizes passport of Syrian activist at Assad’s request
Zaina Erhaim, an award-winning journalist and campaigner based in Turkey, had her passport taken away by the United Kingdom’s border officials when she landed at Heathrow airport .
The British authorities have confiscated the passport of a prominent Syrian activist and critic of President Bashar al-Assad at the request of the Syrian government, effectively preventing her from travelling and blocking her work.
Zaina Erhaim, an award-winning journalist and campaigner based in Turkey, had her passport taken away by the United Kingdom’s border officials when she landed at Heathrow airport in London, reports the Guardian.
After more than an hour of questioning, they told Erhaim that the document had been reported stolen.
The complaint came from the government she has been campaigning against for years.
“I expect to be harassed inside my country. I know that if I went home I would be killed, but now I find that Assad’s arm can even reach to the UK. This is a dictator pursuing a journalist,” said Erahim.
A receipt that Erhaim was given for the passport states: “Document reported as stolen.”
Erhaim had previously used the passport without problems to travel to the UK in April, when she collected the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Journalism award for her work. She had also travelled on it without any problems across Europe.
She also has an older Syrian passport that she can use to return to Turkey, because it is still valid. But because it has no pages left for visas or immigration stamps - the reason she got the new document - she will effectively be unable to leave Turkey again.
The home office said that Britain had to comply with the request because passports are the legal property of the government that issues them.