SA author 'stunned' by deportation from UK

19 July 2015 - 02:00 By MARVIN MEINTJIES


South African author Ishtiyaq Shukri's deportation from the UK has left him stunned. In a statement released on Friday through his South African publisher Jacana, Shukri recounted how he was searched and detained for nine-and-a-half hours by UK Border Force at Heathrow on July 14. The author, who won the inaugural European Union Literary Award for his novel The Silent Minaret in 2004, told the Sunday Times yesterday: "As the days have progressed, I am stunned at how the consequences of what happened at Heathrow ... are now reverberating through my life. I have no immediate means of accessing my family, my friends, and my home there."story_article_left1The author, who writes under a pseudonym, provided his names as they appear in his passport to the Sunday Times so that the UK Home Office could track the case and provide comment. However, no comment was received at the time of writing.Jacana said Shukri was travelling to the UK to join his wife for the summer holidays. "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."Jacana said: "The reason given [for his deportation] is that his last visit to the UK in 2012 was more than two 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."Jacana said Shukri was asked to provide extenuating circumstances for why he hadn't visited the UK since 2012, for authorities to consider while they decided 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; visiting his wife in Yemen in 2014 meant there was no reason or time to also visit the UK. 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," Jacana said.Shukri said: "Since taking up permanent British residence, I have never sought recourse to public funds. I have always participated fully in the public and democratic systems of the country. I have always voted and I have always engaged in frequent debate and correspondence with my local MPs in the North London Borough of Hornsey where we own a home. I wrote my first novel - The Silent Minaret - in London. Large parts of the novel are set in London."I am stunned at how all of that has come to stand for nothing, and how 20 years of life as a Londoner was negated in just nine hours. Why do frontline officials at UK immigration have such power to end a life so swiftly?"Shukri added: "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 ... 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."He noted that "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?" Shukri asked.

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