Jacana Media is outraged at the treatment of one of our authors, Ishtiyaq Shukri. The winner of the inaugural 2004 European Union Literary Award for his novel The Silent Minaret, he was detained and deported from London’s Heathrow Airport on 14 July 2015. His wife is a British citizen. They have been married since 1996. Following their marriage, he has held permanent British residence since 1997 with the right to remain indefinitely in the UK. He has out of personal choice never taken a British passport and travels exclusively on a South African passport. They own a home in London.
Shukri was travelling to their London home to join his wife for the summer holidays. He was searched and detained for nine-and-a-half hours by UK Border Force at Heathrow from the time he arrived at 12:00 until his eventual deportation at 21:30 on 14 July 2015. The reason given is that his last visit to the UK in 2012 was more than 2 years ago. He was also questioned about his visits to Yemen and the nature of his wife’s work there. At the time she was the Country Director of Oxfam Yemen, one of the UK’s largest international humanitarian aid agencies. Shukri was asked to provide extenuating circumstances for why he hadn’t visited the UK since 2012, for authorities to consider while they decided whether to admit or deport him. His reasons are private and some of them painful, but he shared them. Among others …
• His mother’s illness and death in South Africa in 2013, and the changed family circumstances through 2014, and
• Visiting his wife in Yemen in 2014 meant there was no reason or time to also visit the UK, especially as she was not there.
In addition, Shukri’s second novel I See You was launched in 2014 and he was on an author tour in South Africa, which was his priority for the year, although he did not share that. ‘I didn’t want to use my name to gain special treatment. I simply presented my South African travel documents, just as all South African passport holders have to.’ Still, the authorities continued deportation procedures, also revoking his permanent residence and right to remain in the UK. In a statement to Jacana Media, Shukri said, ‘I decided to make a public statement because this kind of thing happens routinely to Africans arriving in the UK. Many don’t have the resources or access to protest. In view of the dire ordeals facing African migrants in the Mediterranean, my circumstances are not as desperate and mine is not the worst case, but it is indicative of the increasing heavy-handedness facing African migrants at UK and EU borders. I hope that sharing my experiences will help to draw increased attention to theirs. While European travellers can access African spaces at will, African travellers face severe restrictions when they attempt to access Europe. Why can a British traveller get a visa to South Africa on arrival while a South African has to face daunting visa procedures and the risk of deportation?’