A British MP said today she has been refused entry to India, put in a “deportee cell” and “physically marched” onto a return flight.
Speaking to the Mirror from her airline seat, Debbie Abrahams said she “felt like a criminal” after she was denied entry for a visit to see family.
Ms Abrahams, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir, claimed she was being “deported” and did not have her passport in her possession. “They’ll use another phrase, but yes,” she said. “It’s absolutely shocking”.
The MP said she “wouldn’t be surprised” if the decision was to do with her involvement with the APPG. Kashmir is disputed by India and Pakistan, with Amnesty International highlighting what it says are human rights violations in the region.
India’s High Commission in London has been contacted for comment.
The Labour MP told the Mirror she arrived at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi international airport on Monday morning with her Parliamentary aide Harpreet Uppal.
Ms Abrahams said she wanted to pay a private visit to her sister-in-law’s cousin and aunt, who recently lost a family member, in Delhi – before then travelling with Ms Uppal to Pakistan for an official visit with the APPG.
She said she obtained her visa to visit India last October and it was valid for a full year.
But when she handed it to a border officer, she said: “He was looking on his screen and started shaking his head and going ‘no no no’, and said ‘your visa is rejected’.”
She said the man left with her passport for around 10 minutes before returning and saying she would not be admitted to India.
Ms Abrahams presented the copy of her visa on her phone but claimed the officer was then “rude and aggressive”, telling her to follow him.
The MP said: “I was getting a little bit scared. I didn’t know where he was taking me, what was going to happen. So I said ‘no I want to know what’s happening’. Then he shouted at me ‘follow me’ and I said ‘don’t speak to me like that’.
“He took us to what can only be described as a holding area, fenced off cordoned area, with two signs saying ‘deportee cell’ over, and said ‘sit down and wait’.
“I refused to sit down – I wanted as many people as possible to see me. I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen to me.”
She said she asked to apply for a visa on arrival but was told she would not be allowed in. By this point, she said there were around five officials some of which were “apologetic” and “didn’t know what was going on”.
She said: “I felt like a criminal, I really did. There’s no other word – being escorted everywhere with security guards, made to sit in a transit lounge for an hour being watched and asked all sorts of details which I refused to co-operate on.”
She said the UK High Commission do not know either why she was refused entry, but said officials had “indicated” that as the “outspoken” chair of the APPG, “that’s probably at the heart of why I’ve been refused a visa”.
The MP has spoken out about the revocation of article 370 by the Indian government, a law which gave Kashmir a level of autonomy. Earlier this month she told the Commons: “The National Federation of Indian Women estimates that 13,000 teenage boys from Jammu-Kashmir have been detained following the revocation of article 370 on 5 August.
“Will the Secretary of State support a fact-finding delegation from the all-party group on Kashmir to the region, given that so many of the UK’s Kashmiri diaspora still have family members there?”
As of 10.30am UK time, Ms Abrahams was on a flight due to return to Dubai where she would then catch her connecting flight to Pakistan tomorrow.
Just before the flight took off she said she did not have her passport in her possession. “I know it’s on the plane but it’s being held by the flight crew,” she said.
She added: “I was physically marched to the plane. They still have not given me my passport back.”
She tweeted: “Just to be clear, I have Indian relatives who I was meant to be visiting with & have Indian members of staff accompanying me.
“The reason I got into politics is advance social justice & human rights FOR ALL. I will continue to challenge my own Government & others on these issues.”
The UK Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.