The Day I Got Deported From the US

Spring 2003. Pretty soon after the Iraq war started.
Dulles International Airport, Washington.

Scene at immigration counter.

him: So where do you come from now, sir? (flips through my passport, filled with stamps in Arab writing)
me: Right now, from London Heathrow, but that was just a transit. I flew in from Cairo, Egypt.
him: How long did you stay in Cairo?
me: One day.
him: Where were you before that?
me: In Jordan
him: And how long did you stay there?
me: Also one day.
him: Where did you come before that?
me: Iraq
him: ?!?!
me: Baghdad, Iraq. I work for the UN, you see.
him: Do you have any tickets to prove that?
me: No, I flew on a UN plane.
him: I do not see Iraq immigration stamps in your passport.
me: No, there is no Iraq immigration anymore since the war. The US military checks inbound passengers, but they do not stamp passports.
him: OK, how long where you there for?
me: A week.
him: So where were you longer than a week? Where do you actually live?
me: Well, my legal residency is in Belgium, but I spend most of my time in the UAE. In Dubai.
him: What do you do there?
me: I head the office of one of the UN agencies there. I have the status of an ambassador.
him: Do you have proof of that?
me: Sure. {I show him my UAE diplomatic card)
him: How long have you been living in Dubai?
me: Two years.
him: And before that?
me: I shuttled between Pakistan and Afghanistan
him: (after two minutes of typing on his computer) Could you step aside for a moment, sir, and come with me?
me: ?!

Thirty minutes later, in a separate room with clearly a number of other ‘doubtful cases’:
him#2: Mr Keyscher (?) (it is difficult to pronounce my name in English)
me: Yes, sir, good evening.
him#2: Evening, what is the purpose of your visit to the US?
me: I was asked by the UN security office to chair a meeting at the World Bank’s office in Washington.
him#2: Are you on an official mission?
me: Yes I am. On UN official business.
him#2: Do you have proof of that?
me: Sure. (I start up my computer and show him the invitation Email)
him#2: What is the meeting about?
me: It is about the UN relief efforts in Iraq. Mostly about the coordination of technical issues between different humanitarian agencies.
him#2: How long do you intend to stay?
me: I fly back tomorrow.
him#2: Where to?
me: To Dubai
him#2: Do you have any other travel documentation than this passport, your Belgian national passport?
me: Yes, I have two UN passports
him#2: Blue or red ones? (the red one is a full diplomatic passport)
me: I have both. (I hand them over)
him#2: Why do you travel on your Belgian passport, if you have a UN passport?
me: It is easier, as I do not need a visa to enter the US with my Belgian one.
him#2: Have a seat sir, someone will be with you in a minute

Thirty minutes later:
him#3: Mr Keyscher?
me: That is me
him#3: I am sorry sir, but we can not allow you to enter the US.
me: ?!?! Why is that?
him#3: You tried to enter on your Belgian passport, but this one is not valid to enter the US.
me: Why not? I was in New York two weeks ago. I fly to the US three-four times a year. I always use my Belgian passport.
him#3: Sorry, but the rules changed. As of last week, Belgian passports have to be machine readable.
me: ?!?!
him#3: They need a strip on the ID-page which is machine readable. Yours does not have that.
me: But two weeks ago, nobody said anything about that at the New York’s immigration office.
him#3: Sorry, but I do not make the rules. And they changed since last week. We can not let you enter the US.
me: But I am on a diplomatic mission. I have a diplomatic status. You have my diplomatic passports.
him#3: Sorry, but that does not matter. Just last week, we stopped a foreign minister from a Middle Eastern country entering the US also. Not the right paperwork neither.
me: Is it possible to speak to your supervisor please?
him#3: I am the supervisor, sir.
me: Can I still speak to your superior, please?
him#3: I will call him on the phone. One moment please.

After fifteen minutes with his supervisor on the phone:
him#3: I am sorry. But we can not let you enter the US. I will call the British Airways representative, and see if you can get a seat back on the same plane you came in with.
me: You do understand that I flew for three days for this meeting, straight out of Iraq? Is there any way anyone could vouch for me? I can call the UN head office in New York?
him#3: No, sir, I am sorry, that decision is final.
me: Can I call someone to let them know I can not make it to my meeting? After all, twenty people will attend, and I was to chair that meeting.
him#3: Sure, here is a phone. But you can are only allowed one local phone call.
me: Can I use my mobile phone to call? The person I need to talk to is from our HQ in Rome. He has an Italian mobile number.
him#3: Sorry, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone here.

I try to call Gianluca in his hotel downtown Washington, but there is no response.
me: (sigh) So, what will happen now?
him#3: We will need to take your photograph and finger prints, sir.
me: ?!?!

Four mug shots, ten finger prints and thirty minutes later:
me: Can I use the bathroom, please?
him#2 (again): Sure.

An armed guard escorts me to a bathroom. Stays outside of the door. I take out my mobile phone, call Gianluca, and explain what happened. I whisper I will not make it to the meeting. I give him a 60 seconds briefing on what my message was going to be in that meeting. The guard bangs on the toilet door saying “It is time, let’s go”.

Back in the immigration screening office, the British Airways representative is talking to him#2.
she: I picked up his luggage, but we have a pretty full plane
me: What would happen if I can not get on this return flight?
him#2: We will have to detain you until you can get a return flight. You have a ticket for tomorrow, so I guess that would mean detention until tomorrow.
me: ?! Detention?
him#2: Yes.
she: I will do my best.
him#2: Can I have your tickets please?
him#2 puts my three passports and all travel papers in a sealed envelop.

Thirty minutes later, the BA representative comes back.
she: I have a seat for you.
me: Thank you
him#2: We will escort you to the plane now
me: Can I have my passports and tickets, please?
him#2: No. You will get them back at Heathrow. Do know that the next time you want to enter the US, you will not be able to enter on the visa waiver program for Belgian nationals. You will need a visa. Each time you enter the US, you will be taken for questioning. Front desk immigration officers will not be allowed to let you enter. I need you to sign a paper stating you understood that, and agree to it.
me: Do I have a choice?
him: No sir, there is no appeal for this.
me: For how long do I need to get a visa. When will I be able to use the visa waiver program again? (I sign the papers)
him#2: This is valid for ever. Once refused entry into the US, you can not enter with the visa waiver program anymore. This gentlemen will escort you to the plane.

Two armed men take me outside the building, onto the tarmac. It is night already. It rains. A blinded truck is waiting for me. More armed men. I see cigarette butts on the ground, just outside of the door as we step outside.
me: I am sorry, but can I ask you one favour? I flew in from Cairo, non-smoking. Four hours. Had no time in Heathrow for a cigarette. Then flew trans-Atlantic for six hours, spent two hours here, and now will fly again. Can I have at least one cigarette please?
him#4: (looks at him#5) OK.. A quick one then.
me: That is the only good news I had since I landed here. Thank you.

They escort me back onto the plain. There are no passengers yet. Him#4 and him#5 whisper to the captain and the flight attendant. They look at me. I feel like a criminal.

Six hours later, I step out of the plane in Heathrow and get my papers back. My flight to Dubai leaves in two hours. I need to find a place to smoke a cigarette and call Gianluca again.

Continue reading The Road to the Horizon's Ebook, jump to the Reader's Digest of The Road.


vagabondblogger 10 February, 2007 15:56  

U.S. customs and Homeland Security is a finely tuned waste of time and money - as seen during Katrina. As an American It embarasses me the hear these stories, but living now in Cairo and having lived in Baku and Abu Dhabi no visit of mine to the U.S. ever goes without numerous questions. Good luck.

Anonymous,  11 February, 2007 18:27  

Not easy to stay cool in this situation, I think ...

73s de Martin, dl4nac
(in Iran for UNHCR several years ago)

Jamie 02 March, 2007 02:43  

I've only ever had one slightly similar situation flying from Paris to Tel Aviv, but that was understandable, and nowhere near the level of harassment you suffered. I do not know you, but I certainly feel for you.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 03:04  

I wonder what the chances are of "him#3" catching a real terrorist.
We all need to join in the fight of errorism.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 03:10  

This is a really great story but it also shows some stupidity of the person.

1. Use of private passport
As an high ranking UN official he should know that if he is traveling on official business he has to use his Laissez Passez (-> that's what you are referring to as a diplomatic passport) in particular - besides visa regulations - also for malicious act insurance reasons.

2. Visa Regulations with a UNLP
With an UNLP you get visas from the US authorities especially for high ranking officials in very short time without the fingerprint etc. formalities. We have heard about cases including from Iraq at that time in less than 24h in other countries for cases similar to the described one in hours.

3. Issues with traveling to the US on an UNLP
The USA is one of the countries that require a valid national passport together with an UNLP. This does not mean that you should try to enter the country with the passport alone. Once you have started a particular procedure they will continue on that one - machine law - they are just following procedure as told. An officer at the gate does not have that much discretion for different decisions - sorry for that see 2.) so stick to your story or experience the story above. We know various cases of people that could enter with EEC passport at that time but obviously had to go through some extra paper work...

4. Difference between red and blue UNLP
You have "full" diplomatic status with both. Only a different protocol applies. For UN staff members D2 and above (Full directors and above) plus envoys by diplomatic protocol these should be threated in the rank like ambassadors / head of a delegation.

5. Arabian countries and home
Now you are hitting on the core of the case. We are remembering a case at the same time when a friend of us could almost not board a plane to the US in France because he (European) was born in... lived in... and came from...
It's a bit like when you would be born in Texas but live in New York and just came from California...
(they guy got on the plane after a few "brown passports" intervened).-)

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 03:45  

I think Mister 1,2,3,4,5 is a prat.

"I know the rules and lingo better than you..."

Defending a system of proceedures that allows for such blind adherence to 'protocol' is FRACKED.

"Just following orders."

How often is that ->EXCUSE used.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 04:04  

have you entered or tried to enter the US since this incident? what did you have to do to regain entry, if you have entered? just curious.

Peter 02 March, 2007 04:10  

Thanks for your reaction. You obviously know your stuff. :-)

However, (and I hope I am not boring other readers with all of this)

1/ A properly signed and authorized Travel Authorization document (TA) and a UN internal security clearance (which is not needed for travel to the US), are the only two requirements needed for official UN travel, and is what is needed to get coverage for the Malicious Acts Insurance, and the general insurance (for problems not caused by malicious acts). All of that is independent from what passport the UN staff member (or consultant for that matter) travels on. Often we do not travel using the UN passports (the “UN Laissez-Passer”- or UNLP in short as you correctly mention), as some countries are particularly reluctant to issue visas on UNLPs (as it does not state the owner’s nationality). In other cases, sometimes, the staff member does not have a UNLP to travel on (being renewed, at another embassy for a visa etc, or it is new staff member, temporary staff, or a local staff member), but is still covered by all insurances. So in short: the use of a UN Laissez-Passer is not needed for official travel. And rest assured, as we have a team of +- 60 people who always travel to the world's worst spots, we *did* check.

2/ Yes, as a head of mission (representative), I have a red UN Laissez-Passer. I also had a blue UNLP as sometimes my red one was at an embassy for another visum (I am a very frequent traveler). I had both with me at the time. You are right to say that once you try to enter a country on one passport, you can not ‘halt’ halfway and try to enter on the other…

3/ Even being a Belgian citizen, I need a visum on a UNLP to enter the US. Getting a visum for the US on a UNLP was at that time a *very* lengthy procedure (contrary to what you state). Don't forget that I was based in the United *ARAB* Emirates at the time. It was advised by the US embassy to simply travel on my national passport, as I always did before. (and did when traveling to NY two weeks before the incident). Each time, at immigration, the reason for the visit was given as ‘official travel’, and accepted as such. You are right to say that IF I would have traveled on a UNLP (with a visum), I needed to also have my national passport to enter the US (as is the case in many countries, simply because the UNLP does not state one’s citizenship).

4/ PS: After the incident, a visum on my UNLP was refused, but a diplomatic visum was given (after quite some time, and a lot of discussions) on my national passport, which I can now only use for official visits to the US. I never succeeded in getting a tourist visum again on my national passport. I did start the procedure for a planned visit to the US Virgin Islands last year, but when, after two months, I still did not get clearance from the US department for Homeland Security, I gave up. It was just not worth the hassle. They warned me that even if I would have received the clearance from Homeland Security, I would have to go in for at least one interview, and would need to be fingerprinted at the embassy before (eventually) getting a visum.

My stupidity has been that “I should have known” that the procedures changed and a machine readable passport was needed for Belgian citizens (why only Belgians at that time, I don’t know)… How I should have known, I don’t know.. It seems it was new also for all those involved in the incident afterwards. (including the British Airways staff)

(phew this reply was almost like a blog by itself… Makes me think of it, I should probably write a 2nd blog about ‘What I had to go through Trying to Enter the US After I got Deported..’)

Peter 02 March, 2007 04:30  

Q: "Have I entered the US afterwards? And what did I have to do for it?".

A: (our comments posts crossed, sorry). For a short while I did not want to go back, but in the end, I really-really needed to go for meetings at the UN HQ in New York... So I had to go through some pain, and hefty discussions at various levels. In the end, the visum on my UN passport was refused, but (more hefty and lengthy discussions at various levels), when I had to go to New York to meet a head of state, I was given a visum on my national passport (which in the mean time had a machine readable strip!) *for official travels only*. As stated before, I never got a tourist visum again (I gave up after 2 months of trying).

Getting the visum was one thing. Actually getting INTO the US at NY immigration, was another ordeal, EVEN with the visum in my passport..

Oh, and by the way, I do not criticize the staff at immigration. They were doing their job. I understood. They were very correct towards me. I do not issue a value about the system and procedure neither... In the story, I tried to stick to the facts as they were... Up to others to issue a value statement :-)

Closing remark: as a frequent traveller, and having 'done' more than half of the countries including most of the 'tricky' ones, this was the worst time I ever had trying to get into a country.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 05:25  

Many times I wish I was an EU citizen myself.. I want to disassociate myself from the behavior of my country. The blood we're spilling around the world makes me sick.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 07:10  

The airline or whomever you book your tickets with are supposed to tell you of recent changes in immigration law, i think.
I went to the US in December 2005 and had to get a machine readable passport quick in order to make use of the visa waiver program. That's why i paid extra for a quick, temporary (but machine readable) passport. This passport was valid for 2 more years.
When i had to enter the US again _5 months_ later they wouldn't even let me get on my flight because the law had changed one week before that, excluding temporary passports (even if machine readable) from the visa waiver program.
I am glad they told me that before boarding the plane. My travel agent gave me a refund for the ticket cause she should have told me beforehand.
My new passport now also has RFID.
Will microwave it soon and try to avoid going to the US altogether.

I also suggest reading this account:

Peter 02 March, 2007 07:32  

Dear Morizky,

thanks for your comment. You are right.. The airline was supposed to have informed me. The new rule was also news to them. Neither the check-in staff in Cairo nor the boarding desk in London Heathrow had checked for the machine readable part in the passport.. The BA staff in Washington Dulles had never heard of it neither. I never got my ticket refunded, as they claim (rightfully) that in the end it is still the traveller's responsibility to have the correct paperwork.
I read the link you mention. It seems that gentleman is now in exactly the same position as I am... Thanks for the link. (and it is very well written too!!)

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 07:33  

I'm an American, but I hate the way my country acts. No, fuck that--it's deeper than a resentment of the manner in which we comport ourselves on the world stage. We have become a nation of arrogant, over-privelaged rule mongers. Sadly, emigration would only put me at the mercy of our foreign policy. God protects fools, drunks, and the United States, indeed.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 08:11  

Unfortunately the USA is, at present, essentially a democratic police state.

But the fact is when you travel to ANY foreign country you will run in to seemingly ridiculous, arbitrary, and inconvenient rules and measures.

The US has long been more lax in such security measures than many other countries, and travellers who are still expecting the old style often get caught short. Really it's these travellers, who expect things to stay the same for their own convenience, that are being quite backward and egocentric.

Things change, the world moves forward - regardless of how much any person wishes for the comfort of the static.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 09:18  

...I can see now why the Terrorists "hate us for our freedom's,"...

..They are more ruthless than their Sharia laws! XP

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 10:49  

Humm 3 days Flying for a meeting you could have done over the Vid-phone, dos the words "Globle Warming" mean any thing to the UN? and there where 20 of you.

I think the UN needs to rethink jet mettings for a start.

Peter 02 March, 2007 11:06  

Thanks for your comment. I FULLY agree with you. In general, we (in our organisation) restrict meetings, and certainly restrict flying around for stuff like that. All overhead cost and money better spent on the actual aid. Unfortunately, sometimes one can not do without getting the people physically in one room. If for anything, many people that work in 'our' line of work are happy if they are in a place where there some electricity. Leave alone video conferencing facilities or even decent internet.. We are often scattered around "in the world's worse places". (I flew out of Iraq for that meeting right after the war.. there was not much up-and-running in terms of sophisticated telecoms at that time in Iraq). So people would fly in from the Darfurs, the Afghanistans, in the deep field of Chad, Congo etc...

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 11:15  

Hey, I'm English. Does our "special", cosy relationship with the Americans still apply, or am I likely to feel the joy of attitude and strip-search next time I visit this benighted country?

PS I don't look Muslim or anything. Might help, methinks.

Unknown 02 March, 2007 11:22  

About around the same time I also had problems getting to the US with that machine-readable stuff. At the time I was a Belgian researcher working in the Netherlands. Every couple of months I'd fly to the US for a meeting or conference. Until that day that the nice lady at the check-in told me I couldn't fly because I had no VISA... Same thing: "rules changed last week", and you'd need a machine-readable passport. Especially the moment they told me that it was "not communicated yet" drew a long sigh from me...

But again: end up feeling _really_ relieved after reading your blog entry...

Owen Blacker 02 March, 2007 11:23  

About the requirement for a machine-readable strip on your passport, it's not just Belgians, it's all the Visa Waiver Program countries (including all EU nations, hence my knowledge: I'm involved in the UK's anti-ID card campaign).

Machine-readable data are now a requirement for all passports used with the Visa Waiver Program.

That said, the DHS really seems to have no idea about actual security, rather than security theatre. A pointless waste of their tax dollars, if you ask me, but at least it stops them spending the money on blowing up more of the planet…

Peter 02 March, 2007 11:42  

Hi Owen, you are TOTALLY correct. At this moment (since a while) ALL VWP-countries need a Machine Readable Passport. See info from:

It states:
International travelers, who are nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, seeking to travel to the United States without a visa, should review this important information on passport requirements for travelers under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). All VWP travelers, regardless of age or type of passport used, must present individual machine -readable passports. Previous one-time exemptions for first-time VWP travelers without MRPs ended June 26, 2005. In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements apply: etc etc..

But do remember, my incident happened in spring 2003, where the requirement for machine readable passports was very new (and very confusing), and not for all countries on the VWP yet. For as far as I could gather, only a few number of VWP countries were to have machine readable passports, starting two weeks before I travelled, but that was changed, and ONLY Belgium was retained (when travelling on a visa waiver programme) for that requirement. The implementation for other countries was delayed... The reason why 'only Belgium' is unknown, and I think never officially announced.. I have my suspicions, though, especially as in spring/summer 2003, it hit the Belgian newspapers that loads of our citizens started having problems at US immigration... I won't say what my suspicion is.. would rather stick to the facts (as i did with the story)..

But you are, Owen, at this moment, ALL need machine readable passports. Let us all be forewarned! :-) VWP-countries need MRP's. As long as we don't forget the RRT for the PPT and the EEM for the CVB too. On form 345.-a bis-3 (could not resist. ha)

burtonator 02 March, 2007 11:50  

Wow.... really sorry to hear that.

On behalf of all the remaining sane Americans I apologize.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 11:51  

Mister 1,2,3,4,5 again:
You are right that a TA + sec clearance does cover you but many stations still request all UN personnel to travel with UNLP only. At the same time many embassies only provide diplomatic visas into UNLPs and not into personal passports.

Anyway when you receive your sec clearance you should - in an ideal case - be informed about visa requirement and in your case the passport issue. I know the situation in the Middle East might have been slightly different particularly at that time as there have been many very pressing issues that had to be solved by UN SOs. I remember meeting with them in Amman in 2003/4....

The issue for machine readable passports was not a Belgium only one - all EEC members (like many other countries) needed one.
But only - as you might now know - if you would travel without an UNLP. I've heard about cases that some US embassies nevertheless even then did not provide Visas into UNLPs (read: without extra paperwork) if the person did not have a machine readable passport.
I'm astounded of the fingerprint etc part as to my knowledge (I got this from a memo by the State Dep.) specifically Diplomatic Visas do not require that. But then you know some only follow their rules today as they see best fit for themselves.

With the "green" waivers you can/could have enter on private or business travel so if you stated "official travel" that's ok (machine readable passport required).

Overall I feel very sorry for you but keeping in consideration how long it takes if at all people are removed from no-flight lists by the US (still some dead people on it?) there might be a lengthy process ahead of you.

Let me provide you with an example of a situation at that time in the US that I've seen personally. It unfortunately also demonstrates the crudeness of "just following procedure":
I noticed an elderly very distinguished Japanese Gentlemen being guided through the Airport with his 3 grant children by VIP personnel to the plane. At the gate security personnel (a very obese woman > 130 kg - and I believe you understand why this might also be important reg. this case) insisted to have him stripped almost naked in front of all passengers and his grant children.
It turned out - as I learned later - besides the outrageous humiliation particularly for an Japanese person - that the person was the CEO of a very large conglomerate just coming back from business negotiations that would have been rather beneficiary for the US.
Last time I've heard about it the case was still unresolved even after a written apology by the state department...

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 11:59  

According to Rule 6 , paragraph 9 of AM-FIGT 12 to obtain a renewed passport, you need to produce your expired one ; to request a new passport you need to produce a valid expired one, as this prevents terrorist from requesting passports.

Alien recognized passports are not recognized, unless you present a valid national passport at the same time, provided you required one. To require a new national valid passport, you need an expired national passport. It is a crime to be an alien without a valid passport or identity card.

In order to increase the security we have to make sure you can't illegally enter the country, unless of course you already are in the country. In this case, to increase security we have to make sure you are legally in the country and that's the reason behind ID cards.

Clearly, to make sure that you abide the immigration laws we need to find out if you are a citizen, but as illegal immigration across borders can happen at any given time, we will need to track you constantly : this is for your security.

Peter 02 March, 2007 12:20  

Hey Mr 1,2,3,4,5 again, :-))

OK OK, now I am starting to feel glad I was not publicly strip searched! :-) Joking apart, that must have been VERY humiliating.. Poor guy Pfffft... It is a pity these things happen, and are allowed to happen, no? I mean what kind of impression does that give to just about anyone?


Unknown 02 March, 2007 12:37  

The same thing happned to me. But for it happened on 31st of December when I was coming to see my family. And it happened in HEATHROW!!! The british immigration control did exactly the same thing that happened to this person. I spend 1 day in terminal 3 in heathrow before sending me back to US. They took my fingerprints and photo. I am no longer allowed to enter UK without a proper visa now!

The people I met in the holding cell were quite interesting and should not have been there.

There was an Australian student that was not allowed into UK because she was carrying her diplomas with her. You see, she just finished college and wanted to show her family show lived in UK her diplomas. The UK immigration detained her and told her that she was coming to UK to get a job. They were sending her back to Australia!

Another person's HSMP (work visa) expired 4 days before he was stopped by a polica car for minor traffic violation. They detained him and were sending him back to UAE the same day!

And then there was me, thinking that my company did due diligence in obtaining the correct visa for my work. They didnt.

Read the full account here:

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 15:05  

There was something in the news, at the time, about Belgians as the only EU citizens being forced to carry machine-readable passports.

The EU countries had promised to introduce MRPs for all their citizens
and in return the US postponed their requirement. IIRC, it was said that Belgium, according to the US, 'did not show sufficient progress in introducing machine-readable passports' or some such.

But the underlying reason could very well be more political, given the fact that Belgium strongly objected to the US-Iraq invasion.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 15:39  

Aha... now we are getting somewhere!

And there is one more reason, I think. Was that not the time that some people indited Bush, Powell, Cheney and the likes for 'crimes against humanity' at the court in Brussels?
Spring 2003, was it not? And then the US threatened to pull NATO HQ out of Brussels?

Peter 02 March, 2007 16:58 (of June 2003) says:

Belgium's justice ministry said legal authorities had received lawsuits against Bush, Blair and a host of senior U.S. officials for crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ministry was able to send the lawsuits to Britain and the United States on Thursday under the recent change to the genocide law. (...)

One lawsuit accused Bush, Blair, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. General Tommy Franks of crimes against humanity in the recent Iraq war, a ministry statement said.

A second lawsuit was against Powell, also regarding the Iraq war.

A third was against Bush, Rumsfeld, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz for crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They declined to say when or by whom the lawsuits were filed.

Hey, don't look at me! *I* did not file the lawsuit... :-)

Hmm, if I remember well, my deportation was the first week of June 2003.

Hey, you guys are going to get me into trouble with this thread! "They" are listening, remember? see my blog entry:

:-) Peter

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 17:15  

I say you're a flaming liar!

Unknown 02 March, 2007 17:20  

Anonymous said...
I say you're a flaming liar!

02 March, 2007 17:15

How can you say that if this happens to many people during a normal day? It happened to me and I have a huge 'X' in my passport to prove it.

Peter 02 March, 2007 17:24  

Anonymous said: "I say you're a flaming liar!"

>>I swear, it was not me who filed a lawsuit against Bush and Co! :=)

Unknown 02 March, 2007 18:40  

Its sad to see the US reduced to "A democratic, police state" as someone posted earlier. If there is a reason for the poor reputation US citizens garner throughout most of the rest of the world - its in part the arrogant, beaurocratic attitude exhibited here. Quite frankly I am glad that I can't think of a single reason that I, as a Canadian, would want to enter the US. It sounds like its time for the UN to remove itself from the US and relocate to a country that still recognizes rights and freedoms of the individual. I understand the conduct of the DHS people was quite proper and I am sure they are just following their instructions, but the fact that you will have to endure this sort of hassle every time in the future, rather than being able to simply clear up the problem like any reasonable organization would permit, is just ludicrous.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 20:02  

I was stationed in Washington, DC, representing an ever-friendly European government from 1996 to 2003. Problems with US customs & Homeland Security officials were infrequent.

Shortly after September 11, however, diplomats with ambassadorial status (Type D, A1 visas) were requested by airport officials to break seals on sensitive materials (a breach of protocol). The state department was notified and apologized, but problem remained.

I guess there's always one person that doesn't get the memo :)

Gary 02 March, 2007 20:10  

American's now live in a Kafkaesque police state. For knowing Kafka please report to your nearest Homeland Security Office.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 21:43  

This is completely absurd on the part of U.S. officials. What they did is a waste of time and money diverted from the real purpose for their work. The INS was eliminated for this kind of stupidity after 9/11. The agency replacing them apparently isn't much better.

Anonymous,  02 March, 2007 23:06  

The terrorists have won. I used to be proud of my country, and feel that it was a great place. Now I despise it, and wish to live somewhere else.

Every day, we take another jackbooted step towards a fascist state. The way we treat the outside world is not much different from the way the government is beginning to treat its citizens, or should I say inmates. The Patriot Act was just the beginning. Now citizens can be declared enemy combatants, and detained at the king's pleasure for as long as he sees fit.

I wish I thought things would change, but I suspect they will get a lot worse before they get better.

Anonymous,  03 March, 2007 00:57  

| May 19, 2006
| ----
| To the citizens of the United States of America:
| In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the
| USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of
| the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
| Her Sovereign Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume
| monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other
| territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy).
| Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor
| for America without the need for further elections. Congress
| and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be
| circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
| To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the
| following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
| 1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English
| Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium," and check the
| pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly
| you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be
| reinstated in words such as 'colour', 'favour' and
| 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut'
| without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will
| be replaced by the suffix "ise." You will learn that the
| suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra'; you may elect to respell
| Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you find you simply can't cope
| with correct pronunciation. Generally, you will be expected to
| raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels (look up
| "vocabulary"). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed
| with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an
| unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.
| 2. There is no such thing as "US English." We will let
| Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker
| will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u'
| and the elimination of "-ize."
| 3. You will relearn your original national anthem, "God Save
| The Queen", but only after fully carrying out Task #1 (see
| above).
| 4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
| November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but to be
| celebrated only in England. It will be called "Come-Uppance
| Day."
| 5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using
| guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many
| lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to
| be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If
| you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing
| someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up
| enough to handle a gun.
| 6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry
| anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will
| be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
| 7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this
| is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will
| understand what we mean. All intersections will be replaced
| with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with
| immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric
| immediately and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both
| roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the
| British sense of humour.
| 8. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you
| have been calling "gasoline") -roughly $6/US gallon. Get used
| to it.
| 9. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call
| French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist
| on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real
| chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with
| mayonnaise but with vinegar.
| 10. Waiters and waitresses will be trained to be more
| aggressive with customers.
| 11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not
| actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter
| will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and
| accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." American
| brands will be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," so
| that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
| 12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English
| actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast
| English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie
| MacDowell attempt English dialogue in "Four Weddings and a
| Funeral" was an experience akin to having one's ears removed
| with a cheese grater.
| 13. You will cease playing American "football." There is only
| one kind of proper football; you call it "soccer." Those of
| you brave enough will, in time, will be allowed to play rugby
| (which has some similarities to American "football", but does
| not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or
| wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
| Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable
| to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is
| not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are
| aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is
| understandable.
| 14. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
| 15. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her
| Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the
| acquisition of all monies due backdated to 1776.
| Thank you for your co-operation.
| John Cleese

Anonymous,  03 March, 2007 01:13  

Ha Ha
US out of UN. UN out of US.

Anonymous,  03 March, 2007 02:14  

Life was much easier in the Congo, no?

BTW. I see your comments are moderated. I am curious if that means censored or moderated for spam and profanity. It may be upsetting to you that US holds its sovereignty and border security in higher regard than UN bureaucracy. To an American it is upsetting when freedom to dissent is not held in high regard.
I will see.

Peter 03 March, 2007 10:36  

I delete spam, profanity, insults...

Balph 03 March, 2007 15:12  

As funny as "JOHN CLEESE'S LETTER TO AMERICA" may be, the attribution is an urban legend.

srebrina 04 March, 2007 02:12  

ok, I know my english is not very good, but still I want you know why you deleted my comment if it wasn't spam, profanity or insults. Even if it wasn't very original, it was only because I am afraid of making mistakes. I hope that you are not judging people from the level of knowing the language YOU use.

Peter 04 March, 2007 02:43  

srebrina, I checked and can not see comments from you in the stack. Can you re-submit the original comment? Sorry about that.

jke 05 March, 2007 19:21  

Crazy. Obviously, the US customs & HS will excell in their war of terror.

Did you receive any official statement so far?

Peter 05 March, 2007 19:37  

A statement from them? Well, I had to sign a paper before they 'released' me onto the plane, stating that I understood what the consequences were of being denied entry, that I was properly treated, etc.. I might have received a copy of that letter, I can not remember.
Once back in the UAE, I did officially complain to the US Embassador in the Abu Dhabi through a Note Verbale (an official communication from one diplomatic mission to another). I got a formal answer back basically saying "very sorry, but you are in the permanent records of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. If you want to travel for UN business, you will have to get a G4 visa" (which is a diplomatic visa). After that, the hassle to actually get a G4 visa started :-S

Peter 05 March, 2007 20:32  

For those interested:
I was able to reconstruct some of the history:
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP)enables citizens of the 27 countries listed below to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The countries are Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Belgium, Japan, Singapore,
Brunei, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Monaco, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Starting 1 October 2003, each Visa Waiver Program traveler was to present a machine-readable passport (MRP) at the port of entry to the United States in order to enter the U.S. without a visa, otherwise a non-immigrant visa is required. This change includes all categories of passports - regular, diplomatic and official.

HOWEVER, citizens of Belgium (only) who wished to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program had to present a machine-readable passport effective 15 May 2003 (this was about one week before my travel).

Later on, the rule was relaxed and
The US announced a one year delay in implementation of the requirement for a Machine Readable Passport, if so requested in writing by one of the 27 countries affected - EXCEPT for Belgium which remained in effect regardless. Why, I don't know, but I have my personal guesses...

Anonymous,  07 March, 2007 06:56  

I agree that the UN should be moved out of the US. Peter, can you comment on whether there has ever been any serious discussion of this?

Peter 07 March, 2007 08:07  

Hi and thanks for your comment!
I would doubt there have ever been 'serious' talks for a bold move of the UN Secretariat (the UN 'diplomatic HQ' and the main UN 'body' in New York) out of the US. It would not be that easy, as the 'UN' as an entity does not really exist. It consists of member states, and will do what its member states dictate. The US is an important player amongst the member states.

Interesting to note is: There are several 'UN Centres' outside of the US: Geneva, Copenhagen, Vienna, Bonn, Rome.. New ones have opened (like the one we built in Dubai (see my story From Sand to a City).
There has been an increasing move of staff and 'UN entities' out of the US to these centers. e.g. UNOPS recently moved its HQ from New York to Copenhagen...

Anonymous,  09 March, 2007 18:02  

What you went through was awful. I recieved a lot of questioning when entering the US two weeks ago, and I'm an American citizen! I moved to the UK in 2004 and this was my first visit home since I had moved. The Customs offical wanted to know where I had been, why and with whom. I answered and then he asked (not kidding here) "If you don't live here anymore why are you coming back?" He was very rude and questioned everything I told him. I was honestly worried for a moment I could be banned from entering my own country. It was nerve-racking. He took ages typing something on the computer and then let me through. If stories like yours are an indication of things to come, it's not a good sign. :( Thanks for blogging your experience.

Anonymous,  15 March, 2007 15:37  

Are you sure about the date of this story?

According to the machine-readable requirement did not go into effect until 26 October 2004. While I do not doubt that the TSA is a waste of time and money, the discrepancy in dates has me doubting the veracity of your claim as well.

Peter 16 March, 2007 12:48  

Thanks for your comment.
Yep, I am absolutely sure of the dates.
See my comment of March 5 to this post (above) giving the history of the implementation of the 'Machine Readable Passport'-requirement for countries under the Visa Waiver Program.

Note that besides the general rule, Belgians have been treated as an exception and "citizens of Belgium (only) who wished to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program had to present a machine-readable passport effective 15 May 2003".
My travel was one or two weeks after that date.

The way I reconstructed the facts was that up to Oct 24 2004, there were still exceptions to the requirement of MRP's, but it became "general with no exceptions" as of the date you mention.

If anything, this proves how confusing this new requirement was, and how chaotic its implementation really was. With frustrated travellers are a consequence.. :-( Hopefully they will do better with the upcoming bio-metric passport implementation (even if they had a false start with that one already)...

Anonymous,  17 March, 2007 21:31  


Obviously, you missed the memo:)

Next time, to expedite your entry, please follow the protocol. Book your flight to Mexico, and walk across the border.

No muss, no fuss!

(If questioned, simply smile, and reply that you're only here to do the diplomatic work that Americans won't do. :)

Peter 17 March, 2007 21:34  

Hahaha. I will follow your advice! :-)))


Anonymous,  28 April, 2007 23:06  

Wow, what a bunch of America haters!

Anonymous,  11 June, 2007 19:21  

These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.

Anonymous,  30 August, 2007 22:33  

Americans... sheesh. As if everyone is dying to get into their country. I commend you on keeping your cool throughout the entire situation. I'm sure those neanderthals would have shot you had you done otherwise.

Anonymous,  16 September, 2007 20:12  

Thanks for the nice post!

Anonymous,  01 February, 2008 03:43  

I recall reading a recent article about the integrity of the Belgian passport. There had been many reports of their passports being faked, as well as thousands of blank passports stolen from Embassies and other Issuance angencies such as honorary consulates and even town halls in Belgium. I believe that this is one reason that the CBP and DHS decided to have a different regulation on Belgian passports. Please read through the following article from the New York Times:

I would like to comment that the NY Times is definetly not pro-Bush, let alone a propoganda machine of the US Gov't. I do not honor the premise of, nor believe the claims that Bush tried to screw over Belgian citizens because of their government's protest over issues in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

So before people go and try to make accusations of some hidden political conspiracy and their agenda, please be mindful that sometimes things actually happen for a reason. The rampant increase in the attempted and successful use of fraudulent Belgian passports is the most likely reason DHS changed the protocol on admitting those from Belgium with only the most recent passports so they could with relative ease confirm their authenticity.

Plus, we all know you can't start trying to be admitted on a different passport once you start using one. Its not like a credit card where if one is rejected we can try all the others.

Nonetheless, interesting read and I understand your lack of knowledge on new regulations due to your work and contact (or lack there of) with authorities, or any modern world concerning such trivial things such as machine-readibility, when you work in conditions where having electricity is a luxury.

If you were travelling on official business, aren't you issued travel orders as well as having a travel office, whose specific job it is to make sure that these specific issues (such as passport validity) are taken care of?

Anonymous,  07 March, 2008 13:04  

In 2004 I flew from iran to greece via bahrain,at the very same day the ending ceremony of the olympics took place.
I just showed my password, they didnt even bothered to check ;P Red passports rule ;D

chernobyl 12 March, 2008 00:07  

Well, rules are rules, but using a bit of common sense when applying the rules is always desirable. I was involved in a similar paperwork mix-up in Brussels in 2001; the Belgian authorities were very professional, and everything was resolved in less than an hour.
I can give you many other examples of European authorities showing some understanding and common sense without compromising safety and security at all.

Unknown 12 May, 2008 04:20  

I'm not sure if anyone is going to read this but someone really needs to look at the USA's human rights record. I went to American, feel in love & married my American wife & overstayed on my visa. Then one day I was riding the bus minding my own business, next thing I know, a policeman got on the bus asked to see my I.D. I didn't have one & told him i'm married to a US citizen but overstayed on my visa. Next thing I know I was hauled off the bus, stuck in prison for 6 months & had my human rights abused on a daily basis & i've never committed a crime in my life. I was then deported & now have a 10 year ban to lift before I can return to my wife & kids, all because I wasn't born in the USA. America was built on immigrants, mostly from Europe. Since returning to England, i've read many stories of families being ripped apart for no good reason other than 1 or both parents are foreign nationals. It's like what the Nazis were doing to people 65+ years ago & it's wrong. The Department of Homeland Security is run by very, very, very evil people & the rest of the world must do something to make the US government accountable for abusing innocent people's human rights!

Anonymous,  19 September, 2008 12:05  

I'm American but live in Dubai, UAE (and before that in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe).

I have stamps in my passport from Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and all the Gulf countries except Saudi Arabia. Every time I go through US immigration I am harshly interrogated. Last time they went through every number in my mobile phone asking me who they were and why I have them in my phone. It usually takes me at least half an hour to get past immigration in my own country. I was asked "Why would you live in an Arab country when you can live here in America?"

When I was in Iran, I stayed in a hotel that had brass letters above reception reading 'Down with USA'. I could not have said it better myself!

Down with USA.

Anonymous,  28 July, 2009 23:11  

as I was reading this story, I was so amazed because this also happened to me when I was entering the US because I had so many stamps (for only one visit) to Lebanon, as a tourist. but because I was here as a refugee, they couldn't deport me. I guess I was lucky!!!

Anonymous,  21 September, 2009 00:13  

i also was deported from usa, they put me in a detention center with criminals, i could make no calls, i ask for whater and they dont give to me, i only get a sandwich from subway and a coca cola for 24 hours, they insult me and humiliates me, they only tellsme, "tell the true or you are going to jail" and i said, "witch true?"
thanks good i could go out from there

Anonymous,  04 October, 2009 20:46  

I spent 25 years as an aid worker living outside United States, my home country, and each country required compliance with its immigration requirements for entry.

I was once denied entry into Indonesia because they required that my passport be valid for six months at entry (it was), but not a week later when I was to leave. I had to return to Singapore for a week to get a special limited use passport for Indonesia.

I worked in both Sudan and South Sudan, and was required to have a separate passport for each place.

I worked in southern Africa in the 1980's and had to have a separate passport for travel to South Africa and the non-SDCC countries and the rest of Africa.

I worked in Azerbaijan and was regularly held at immigration until I changed my old passport for a new one without an Armenian visa.

I was held in Amsterdam (in 1996) because I traveled from Sudan via Egypt/Syria/Cyprus.

I was detained in Zambia twice because I was white, several times in Zimbabwe for the same reason. When I worked in Zimbabwe, it took six months to a year to get a visa.

When I worked in Botswana, the government required my doctor to fill out a government form to certify that I was not "an imbecile, an idiot,or a feeble-minded person."

I was robbed of my passport in Johannesburg, had it stolen at gunpoint in Maputo, taken from by khat-chewing Somali gunmen who gave it back only after I paid them a bribe in hard currency.

Plus I had a lot of bad shit happen to me over the years.

My point? Travel and travail come from the same root. Countries can and do choose who crosses their borders - it's a thing called sovereignty, and it allows them to print money and point guns at travailers. If you want to live international, get over it. If you don't want to sound like another spoiled expat, stop judging entire nations because you screwed up by not respecting their immigration requirements.

And who can blame the U.S. for being a little edgy after illegal immigrants (just 19 of an estimated 20 million illegal immigrants) blew up several of their landmarks and killed three thousand of their people.

Btw, Peter, I thought you took your unfortunate experience pretty well; manned up to it, as they say. Way better than some of the haters who responded to it and who have no business calling themselves humanitarians.

Frank P 08 February, 2010 12:46  

Wow - what a story to read.

criminal solicitors 02 March, 2010 02:59  

I accept that from other contributors to this thread that there appears to have been a problem with faked belgian passports in the past and the measures you describe here (machine readable passports) were introduced to help combat the problem/security risk, but nonetheless, it must have been an extraordinary experience for you to endure.

also, nobody else seems to have mentioned this, but am i the only one to notice how many 'anonymous' contributors there are to this blog?

i dont think i have ever seen a greater demonstration of paranoia against USA surveillance - i.e. how many of your readers believe their comments on here are being monitored (hence the use of 'anonymous' when leaving a commment), or perhaps even fear that their i.p. address has been noted!

Anonymous,  01 June, 2010 03:01  

Every american who are living and working in other country should be kicked out with all of there familys just like they do to other people they should not be able to go on vacation outside the united state.I was kicked out after living there for over 16 years I left my little girl to grow up without her father my wife without a husband.If I was a man of powerfull I would make that happen.

Anonymous,  29 June, 2010 03:30  

I am a canadian citizen met an american citizen online went to see her december 2008 we got pregnant so i decided to come back to canada to finish school and tried to go back april 2009 but denied 3 times because of paper work that was needed finally got to go but was given a 2 week permit over stayed that permit for year and half came back to canada and am trying to petition because i think i am deported for 10 years. what do i do please help

Anonymous,  01 May, 2011 18:13  

Here’s what can happen to a grad student.
1. You get your visa but you notice no leaflet to explain the key rules.
2. The degree and TA job lasts for a few years. You phone the huge International Centre at the University of Iowa but they do not volunteer guidance. e.g. “I’ve finished my degree, what can I do to earn a ticket home?”, answer: “Get a job on campus”.
3. By sheer luck you get a specialist job on campus that would justify Practical Training F-1 Extension but you don’t know about that. The ‘cool, laid back’ recruiter spaces interviews, not telling you that the Indian you are replacing had to go back to India to apply for his visa because he didn’t get F-1 extension in time.
4. You get the job after a second interview that could include the Indian but the International Center then says you are 10 days too late for F-1 Extension "Why are you here?!". The UI recruiter doesn’t want to go through the same rigmorole with you as he did with the Indian before you and you haven’t got the resources to fly home and apply anyway.
5. You turn yourself in and at your first hearing it is suggested that you gain visa reinstatement by way of applying to be a student for a Ph.D. somewhere. You call in monthly to sign at the INS centre but, being a friendly bunch, they tell you ‘don’t worry’ each time as your agent isn’t there that day.
6. Time goes by and a reference professor is meanwhile shooting down all your grad school apps. You find out and the U. of Idaho lets you write one reference yourself. They get you set up with a good RA position and admit you but 9/11 has turned everything sour and calling the INS gets you more attention than you bargained for.
7. Eventually, you get hold of your appointed Councillor and he now says you’ll need an immigration lawyer to get you the visa reinstatement you need.
Then a letter from another processing office demands an account of money transactions for rent etc. while you were on your own recognizance.
8. You give up the game and your Councillor says the voluntary departure papers will be in the mail but they never show (strange room-mate possibly took them down to the US Mail and had them returned).
9. When you approach a politician for advice this alerts the ICE team and you get shackled the following Monday. They later suggest you sign you car ownership papers so the neighbour can sell them. In chains and intimidated, you sign away four cars and she keeps the lot as well as your pc, books and remaining belongings.

There might be humour here but the point is/are: 1. The 1-entry visa prevented me from leaving the US temporarily for a good interview in London. 2. With no possibility of income, how was I going to pay for an immigration lawyer to get my visa reinstated after I got admission to the suggested University program? I was stuck in Catch 23 (22 only applies to bomber crew requesting to be grounded).

iGotDeported 07 July, 2011 08:59  

Could you please write a post on my website:


Unknown 23 September, 2015 13:21  

Thanks for sharing your experience it was really shocking to see so many questions from a officer thanks a lot passport agents in hyderabad

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