torsdag 18 februari 2010

British Immigration officials

Why do British immigration officials present themselves so badly? Every time I encounter these people, I find their behaviour gratuitously offensive, regardless of whether I arrive at the Eurostar terminals at Brussels or Paris, or at the east coast port of Harwich, it is the same story. To judge from the way the conduct themselves, they appear to be ex-prison warders. Or possibly they are prison warders and immigration control is part of the job.

Yesterday I arrived at Harwich and was confronted by a burly, hatchet-faced man with an unpleasant demeanour. I was asked a whole string of questions; what had I been doing for three weeks in Sweden? What was my address in Britain? What was my job? The latter question revealed incompetence, because if he had checked my date of birth on the passport, he would have realised that I was retired.

If I had been caught by the police in the act of breaking-and-entering, arrested and taken into custody, such an approach would have been appropriate.

On reflection, I wonder what would have happened if he had been dissatisfied with the answers? Would I have been refused entrance to the UK? As I was carrying a return ticket back to Denmark anyway, I would just have had to change the date and go back at the next sailing. I can think of worse fates.

Incompetence describes the entire operation. If someone really is up to no good, the worst thing to do is to treat them as suspected criminals. If the officials behave in an open and friendly way, miscreants are more likely to blab and reveal significant information. As it is, we have the usual picture of oppressed people revelling in their tiny little bit of power.

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