Unwelcome To Britain

 by Martin Belam, 9 March 2004

I flew back into Britain today, and what a sorry experience it was, full of the kind of British mean spirit that gets me down.

Before we'd even fully boarded, an overweight over-sunburnt British couple had managed to barge and shove their way down the aisles looking for any nook and cranny to stash their copious duty free fags'n'booze - in the process treating a couple of fragile lovely old Indian ladies who must have been in their sixties to the classic you didn't understand me but if I shout at you in English this time you'll understand and get out of my fucking way.

As soon as the doors of the plane were sealed, the announcement came that due to the requirements of Heathrow we would now be sprayed. Presumably to stop Johnny Foreigner bringing his Dreaded Lurgee into Dear Old Blighty. The flight was punctuated with announcements to the effect that due to UK regulation non-UK passport holders have to fill in little cards. And you can't bring in foodstuffs. Or much at all really from the long list given out. Well except the obligatory lashings of cheap fags for tax avoidance purposes.

Once you arrive at Heathrow it seems the first signs that confront you are the ones warning you in around 8 languages that unless you claim your asylum right this instant anyone who helps or supports you can go to jail for a long time and you can go back to a country we've bombed into being secure. The irony is that these are virtually the only multi-lingual signs in the whole of Heathrow. Don't speak English and want to find the toilets easily? Forget it.

Today's newstands greeted the tourists on the plane with "Migrant Mayhem" from the Daily Mail, and "Minister Admits Migrant Cover Up" from The Daily Express. This was a follow up to their story of the previous day "Migrants: The Great Con" which I saw someone reading on the plane. Anyone would think we were living through a massive economic slump with huge levels of unemployment because of these migrants stealing our jobs.

Still the papers have obviously got the message across to the authorities, and they've acted in our best interests. The queue to inspect the document that guarantees my freedom of movement throughout the EU, and proves that I have just arrived home, is longer than any of the queues for non-EU nationals.

Welcome home.


When I got flew back to Heathrow from Geneva, there was a horrifically massive queue for the non-EU passport holders. On the other hand, I got through in about two minutes. I suspect it depends on what other flights are coming in at the time, but it'd certainly be nice if they could swap some of the booths around dynamically.

We do like to make people "welcome". A few years ago I did the Eurostar. Waterloo to Paris - fine. Lovely. Just walked on, through the metal detectors, onto the train through the channel, out and wow, you're in Paris! Fantastic! Walk straight out of the station. Lovely.

Way back. Gare du Nord. French passport control in a booth. UK passport control stood up 1m away.

Passports shown at almost every step. Get to Waterloo. Huge queues, passports every five seconds. I felt like a criminal and I was a valid entrant!

Still nothing beats visiting Russia for me. Visas weeks before hand, immigration cards on the plane, stand in big long queue at the Russian airport until you finally get to immigration control where they stare at you for five minutes and stamp things before grunting and sending you on your way.

And you get exactly the same on the way out!

Last time I went on the Eurostar, the passport checks for both countries were before you got on, both ways, so you just walked off very easily when you got there.

I don't see why we don't abandon all border controls for EU-internal flights and trains like all the other EU countries have done

because that wouldn't stop the hordes of asylum seekers who are clamering at Calais to take over our island. There's billions of them! All wanting to come and take the benefits out of the hands of our own layabouts!

(Get your daily fix of ill-informed scaremongering every day in the Daily Mail and Daily Express. In all good newsagents now!)

Keep up to date on my new blog