A black EU citizen with settled status was temporarily denied entry to the UK when she attempted to board a Eurostar train in Paris on Saturday.
Dahaba Ali Hussen, a Dutch citizen of Somali origin who has lived in London for 19 years, was on a solo holiday in France when she arrived at the Gare du Nord railway station two hours before her train was set to depart to London St Pancras.
Unable to pass the barriers for the EU queue, Hussen assumed there was a technology issue. She claims a UK Border Force officer she then approached confiscated her passport after he notified her that she would be subject to “further checks” because she had been denied settled status in the past.
Hussen claims she was handed a form that had already been filled out, with a box ticked stating she was denied reentry to the UK, and another box ticked saying she was being detained under the 1971 Immigration Act.
“I was mortified,” Hussen said. “I was stood in the middle of the train station, while everyone was checking in, crying. It felt like a horror movie.”
Hussen, 29, a journalist who has written extensively on the EU settlement scheme, has previously campaigned with organisations including the3million, which gives a voice to EU citizens in the UK.
In the past, she has been more concerned about the status of her mother, a former refugee who fled to the Netherlands during the Somali civil war in the early 1990s.
But Hussen herself has had numerous issues with her UK settled status. She was previously refused settled status to live in Britain on three separate occasions, including last year.
On Saturday, uncertain what was going to happen, she frantically made calls to British MPs and former colleagues with whom she had campaigned.
“I’m more well-versed on this than your ordinary citizen, and even I didn’t know what was happening,” she said.
Once a video Hussen posted on her Twitter account from Paris began to draw attention, Hussen claims the Border Force officer “completely changed his tune”, returned her passport and escorted her on to the platform to catch her train.
“I know the only thing [the Home Office] responds to is media pressure,” she said. “I’d really like to get to the point where someone explains to me why, despite having my full EU settled status, I had my passport taken away from me.”
Hussen also described overhearing a white woman ahead of her requesting permission from a UK Border Force officer to pass using a scan of her passport, because she had left the original in Bordeaux.
“I literally remember looking at her thinking, ‘Good luck. Are you trying to get into a club?” Hussen said, adding that the officer, however, allowed the woman to pass.
“This is not an isolated incident,” Hussen said of her ordeal. “They do it to people of colour the most.”
Responding to Hussen’s tweet, the In Limbo Project, which collects testimonies on the impact of Brexit from EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU, said: “This is not an isolated incident. Thankfully @Dahabaalihussen has now been able to travel back home to the UK but this ordeal would not have happened if the British government had issued us all with a physical proof of our immigration status.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “As part of routine security checks, Ms Hussen was delayed for a short time, but at no point was she told she couldn’t travel to the UK, nor did she miss her train.
“We apologise for any inconvenience this caused Ms Hussen, but we will always prioritise the country’s security.”