Stop and … spy?

Stop and … spy?


Written by: Harmit Athwal

Are the security services in the UK so desperate to recruit spies and informers that they stop random travellers coming to the UK in order to recruit them?

IRR News has heard that a Sri Lankan man, visiting London was stopped as he passed through the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras and asked to spy on members of his own community and more specifically the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam network.

He told IRR News the following story: ‘I came through from the platform and you have to walk through to get to the exit. There was a line of men where you turn to get to the exit door at the end of the hall. While I was moving forward to the exit, one of the men from a line began to move towards me. I thought that he was an immigration officer, so I prepared to give him my passport; he approached me and asked “Could I have your passport?” He took my passport and looked at the page where my photo and details are. Then he asked me to wait and went in to a room which had a darkened glass window (I think there were officers behind that glass who observed people). As I couldn’t see the people through that glass, I avoided looking in that direction and I looked at the other men who were in line and I tried to smile but they looked at me in a strange way as if I were a suspect. I think I’m used to such looks from certain public servants in Europe.

I was waiting for more than fifteen minutes. In that time I was feeling uncomfortable to be treated so differently from the other white people who got to the exit without any problems and I wished that I was in the country where my parents were born and people who look like me. Suspicion is very hard to live with.

The man came back. He got closer to me. In a soft tone, he murmured, “Could I ask you some questions?” I smiled at him and I asked him if the visa which they found on my passport were wrong for a Tamil person. He smiled shyly and shook his head up and down. Then in the same soft murmuring way said, “We need information on the LTTE’s network here.” I smiled and asked him “Where here in London? This is only the second time I have visited London and I don’t know anyone from the Tamil diaspora in London.” While I was speaking he made me move to a corner of the hall, which was hidden by a small wall with a bench. We sat on that bench. He said “No in France, my colleagues will contact you” and he looked in my eyes to see if I agreed. Then he questioned me about my whereabouts in France, on my family and on my work. He took notes in a small book. Then he asked where I was going in London; he asked for the address and the telephone number. Then I asked him what his name was. He said that he couldn’t give his name. I looked at his badge – there was only his photo and three numbers and a letter. Then he repeated that a colleague would contact me in Paris by phone.’

To his relief the young man has not yet been contacted.

Related links

Read an Indymedia story: ‘Recruiting Spies at British Airports’

Read an Indymedia story: ‘You don’t have the right to silence’


Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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