Seizing passports is a dangerous departure

The Israelis didn't like that I'd been to Iran. The Libyans didn't like that I'd been to Israel
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The Independent Online

The powers-that-be appear to be a little off-kilter at the moment. The police do very little regarding the sexual abuse and rape of 1,400 children in Rotherham, but feel it necessary to unleash a European manhunt for parents who want nothing more than an alternative treatment for their sick child.

Now David Cameron feels that we are somehow so threatened by a tiny bunch of Brits becoming religious fanatics in Syria/Iraq that he wants to pass laws that would allow British citizens to have that citizenship removed. This is a frighteningly slippery slope. I speak with a little experience in this area. In the desperate panic that followed 9/11, the USA implemented the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System. This targeted anybody born in about 25 "suspect" countries (24 of which were Muslim) whether they were citizens of said country or not. Anyone born in those countries attempting to enter the USA was subjected to hours of additional screening and questioning at airports before being made to report to a police station every 10 days of their stay. Not only was this knee-jerk, ignorant, and inefficient racial profiling, but it often served only to turn generally pro-American travellers into virulent critics of the US government.

I was one of those travellers. Despite being British, I was born in Beirut, where my parents lived and worked. This was a big problem for the US authorities, and their treatment of me not only challenged my established pro-American views, but gave me an insight into the inefficiency and counter-productiveness of these types of security measures.

I travel a lot, and to such offbeat places as North Korea, Azerbaijan, Iran, Israel …. In the past, I've been refused entry to both Israel and Libya – both countries claiming I was some form of security risk. The Israelis didn't like the fact that I'd been to Iran. The Libyans didn't like the fact that I'd been to Israel. Confused? I was. How had I become the enemy of states so politically opposed to each other? Equally, how had I – an enormous fan and admirer of the US – been made to feel so resentful and angry about a country I loved?

This could now happen in the UK. Even if we accept the principle of being able to make British citizens stateless, who is going to make these decisions? Who is going to decide that you were a member of IS, or delivering aid to refugees, or just having a holiday in Turkey? It's not that I want radicalised fanatics coming back from a warzone prepared to do harm to this country. Far from it. But we have courts. We have a justice system. If people are suspected of being guilty of something, then prosecute them. The blanket removal of passports smacks of a step towards totalitarianism. Even if you agree with the concept, the idea that this new power would be used wisely and correctly is misplaced. Bureaucracy does not deal with nuance and subtlety. It is a blunt instrument and a recipe for unfairness and injustice. It will only stoke the flames of future horrors.

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