Most people find airports an absolute nightmare. Like seeing a doctor or renting a flat, simple procedures involve more and more box-ticking and form-filling as the technology improves. Spare a thought though for returning soldiers on RAF flights to Edinburgh. Frazzled and weary after high-intensity tours in Afghanistan, they then ‘find themselves subjected to a level of scrutiny by the UK Borders Agency above that of an asylum seeker.’ One para told Private Eye‘s military correspondent ‘Squarebasher’ that ‘The only way to avoid the hassle is to come home in a fucking box.’
This isn’t just a tale of red tape strangling what should be an easy process – Squarebasher’s piece also provides an insight into the nasty, squalid world of the UKBA.
Despite still being in uniform and carrying an MOD90 identity card and a full British passport, it can take up to five hours to satisfy officials of their allegiance to the country they have just risked life and limb to serve.
One returning soldier who had already completed a tour in Afghanistan found himself at the back of a long line in front of a UKBA immigration officer who, when asked about passport requirements, was heard to remark, ‘Just the brown faced ones.’ The comment enraged troops serving alongside ‘brown faced’ comrades who had faced identical threats, made identical sacrifices and won identical medals.
We can’t know if this is a case of one bad apple or a whole rotten barrel. But it’s not a great sign, is it?