UK still investigating Omani girls’ detention, deportation

The four female students were on a study break and were planning to visit friends in the UK, when the incident happened

Peter Harrison

Published: Updated:

The UK government said Friday it was still investigating the detention of two Oman girls at London’s Stanstead Airport and their subsequent deportation this week to Eindhoven in The Netherlands.

A Home Office spokesman repeated previously issued statements when contacted by Al Arabiya News on Friday saying: "We are sorry for any distress that has been caused in the handling of this case. We are investigating the circumstances of the incident so that lessons can be learned and appropriate action taken.

"The UK welcomes tens of thousands of Omani nationals to the UK every year and only a tiny fraction ever experience any difficulties at the border. That many Omanis wish to visit our country remains of great importance to us,” the spokesman added.

The British embassy in Muscat, Oman, apologized Tuesday for the distress caused to the Omani girls.

In an interview with the local Al Wisal Radio on Tuesday afternoon, British Ambassador to Oman Jon Wilks said:

“I apologize for how these Omani girls were treated at the airport, and I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them and their families in person. I am following the matter closely while investigations continue. Meanwhile, I do not propose to comment further on the details of the case."

“We welcome tens of thousands of Omani nationals to the UK every year and over ninety nine percent of those visitors experience no problems at the border. The UK and Oman’s excellent bilateral relations are based on long-standing personal links between our two peoples.

"I will do everything I can to make sure those personal links continue with the younger generation, including through welcoming lots of young Omani visitors to the UK. That is why I take this case very seriously.”

A statement by the UK embassy in Muscat said: “The British Embassy in Muscat has asked the Home Office to establish, as a matter of urgency, what happened and whether there are different measures that need to be taken in future.”

Two of the women were held by UK immigration officials when they arrived at the British airport a day late on Feb. 13 after missing their scheduled flight, according to reports in the Omani newspaper Times of Oman.

The four female students were on a study break and were planning to visit friends in the UK, when the incident happened.

Immigration officials’ suspicions were raised when the students arrived a day later than their electronic visa waiver was valid for.
Two were able to board a plane out of Stanstead on the only seats remaining, leaving the other two behind.

The remaining two women, Feithla Faisal al Abdul Salam and her friend, referred to as Adhraa were detained.

According to press reports, the students’ repeated efforts to phone the Omani embassy in London were refused because they were reportedly told it had nothing to do with their case.

One of the women told the Muscat Daily: “They handcuffed us and took us through the airport to the van as if we were criminals.

“Just imagine the image of two covered Arab girls handcuffed, grabbed by the arm and walked through the airport. Everyone was just looking at us. Just imagining what was going through their minds was horrible for me. I felt so violated.”

Naila Hamdoon - the mother of one of the women, a software technology student named as Adhraa - told the Times of Oman that her daughter’s phone had been confiscated during her detention. She said she would work to ensure her daughter was not blacklisted for any reason.

She told the newspaper: “We want to know exactly what happened at the UK airport. If the girls’ visa papers were not clear, how could the Holland airport allow them to board a flight?

“Still now, we are confused. We are totally upset the way our children were treated at UK airport.,. We want first them to be proved innocent."