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Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Belfast City Airport: Black woman 'stopped for looking foreign'
The Home Office has settled a case with a black woman for £2,000 after she alleged an immigration officer at Belfast City Airport stopped her because she "looked foreign".
Her case, which was supported by the Equality Commission, was settled out of court with no admission of liability.
The woman, who has been in the UK for 16 years, holds a British passport.
Speaking afterwards, she said: "I thought then, and I still think now, I was stopped because I am black."
The woman was leaving her mother-in-law to the airport when the incident occurred.
After the drop off, she and her children were waiting to be collected when she was approached by an immigration officer who asked to see her passport or ID.
She claimed that the officer told her she "looked foreign and not from here".
The woman showed the officer her driving licence and explained that she was British, that she was not travelling and was simply dropping off a relative.
The officer asked for details about her mother-in-law and a friend who had driven them to the airport, before checking her immigration status over a radio link.
After the case, the woman said: "I was doing what many other people do without incident - dropping off my relative for her flight.
"I've worked in the UK for 16 years, the most recent two of them in Northern Ireland, and I was really upset by this incident and the way it was handled by the Immigration Service."
She said the experience has had "a negative and unsettling effect" on her entire family.
"One of my children has asked me if we now have to carry our passports everywhere with us," she said.
Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland, said he found the case "extremely disturbing".
"In effect, it has left a woman feeling she has been singled out and had her identity questioned in full public gaze," he said.
"And if a person feels, as this woman did, that they are singled out because of their skin colour, it can be particularly upsetting and humiliating - as it was for our complainant and her children, who witnessed the event.
"It is quite simply unacceptable that she feels she was challenged in a public place only because of the colour of her skin. It is vital that we challenge such simplistic stereotyping of people."
Dr Wardlow described as "ironic" the fact that the woman does not want to be publicly identified because of the fear of negativity or intimidation.
The Home Office has apologised to the woman for any offence caused