Again, 7:30am ushers in breakfast time. I grab a quick bite to eat and head off to processing to check-out. I got escorted into a van along with two other detainees who are being sent home. After a nice drive for Cambridge to Gatwick, they dropped me off at Gatwick under the custody of the same people who stopped me in the first place. These cats (the airport authorities) aren’t nearly as nice as the guards in the center. They act as if they’ve got something to prove. So once more, I got searched and thrown into the Gatwick detainment room. I started a conversation with a nice fellow from Chad and before I knew it, it was time to leave.
This part gets me every time I think about it. Here I am; a Canadian student who didn’t get a proper Visa for a working holiday walking through the airport, escorted by 3 G4S security guard. I must have looked like some sort of a super violent criminal. My escorts got me in front of every line and first on the airplane. I felt pretty hardcore. Once everyone was seated on the airplane, I noticed that the seat Immigration got for me was surrounded by empty ones all around. For a second I though it would have been funny to put my jacked over my hands and try to give the “crazy eyes” to anyone who looked at me. Think Kate from Lost in the airplane without the federal marshal. That’s what I was going for.
Finally we arrived in Montreal. Here, I was once more escorted by security. I really don’t know what they expected me to do. Was I that big a flight risk? “Oh no! That deported Canadian kid is loose in the airport! He might go turn on the water in the bathroom. FULL BLAST. And go help build houses. FOR FREE!” Anyway, I got to immigration and they thankfully let me in. I got my passport back (it was taken from me by UK Immigration) and hopped on a bus.
And that, my friends, is more or less my deportation story. Sorry if it was long. It’s a much better oral tale, I tend to add things here and there. I think it’ll be the sort of tale that by the time I’m 40, there’ll be a SWAT team in there at some point, and I may have killed an inmate. I could go on about what I learned and how it changed me, but I really don’t think that’s very interesting to read about. I don’t regret having gone through the experience and I think I’m a more complete individual for having lived it. Plus I can really say I’ve done something unique in the UK.
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I got escorted by two G4S guard into a van from the detainment room. As they closed the door, I couldn’t help but laugh. This van is serious. It’s got a cage on the door and on the back and there’s plexiglass everywhere else. I asked them if they could take a picture since I think it would be hilarious (and I knew no one would believe this actually happened), but they told me no pictures are allowed; in fear that might be a journalist. So we drove around the airport and pulled into some official looking compound where I got transferred into another vehicle. Same idea. Cage and plexiglass. In this van, I’m told that there are 2 other individuals to pick up before we reach the center. I figure it’ll be two people with the same hilarious misunderstanding as me. After about an hour and a half of driving in the English countryside we stopped at a police station. At this point, I replaced my initial assumption that they’ll be like me with the guess that we’re picking up some sort of a crazy terrorist. Turns out it’s a Turk who was held there for 4 days and is pretty nice, he’s got a pretty crazy story too. So we are back on our merry way to pick up the third felon. Same story with this guy. He’s being held in a police station. This cat is an Ethiopian follow who doesn’t really speak English, so I never got his story. Finally, after about 3 hours of driving where I tried my best to dig all of the scenery since it was going to be my only chance before leaving, we got to the Oakington center. As we drove in, our chauffeur tells us it’s not as bad as it looks. It doesn’t look that bad though. It’s an old army barrack that was purchased and converted by Immigration UK into a holding center. After a lengthy processing, where all my belongings are divided into a “stuff I can keep” and “stuff they keep”, I’m shown to my room. My room is shared with 7 other detainees. Finally, at 2:30am, I go to bed.
7:30am (Thursday morning) rolls around much too fast. A loud voice on the intercom tells us it is breakfast time. I roll out of bed and see my roommates for the first time; Six Africans, one Vietnamese and me, the lone Canadian. Breakfast was fairly painless. I got accustomed to the routine fairly quickly as it’s pretty much the same as Cadet camp only with lots more Asians and Africans. Lots more. One of the guards informed me at processing that there are 320 detainees. One has been at the center for 15 months. Many of them have been here for several months. As I started talking to my fellow prisoners, I discovered that this is where people go when the Man discovers they are illegal immigrants or when their asylum status is revoked due to conflict resolution in their country. After breakfast, we (all the new detainees) got a tour of the facilities. Turns out this place is fairly well equipped. There’s a gym, a small library and a games room, among other things. After 2 more meals, a nap, some ping pong with my Iranian friend, a few walks around the small outdoors area and way too much BBC one, I head off to bed; my van is leaving in the morning to drop me off at the airport and my trip back to Canada will begin.
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So here’s the set up. After my last exam, I was planning on celebrating the end of my university career with a month-long vacation where I helped this family (that I found on the internet) build a house in England in exchange for food and housing. That was the plan. Here’s what really happened.
After a long flight from Montreal to Gatwick, I got to the border control booth, ready to start my celebratory vacation. The lady asked me the typical questions, why are you coming here, how long do you intend on staying, who are you coming to see, etc. I gave her honest answers; as anyone who knows me will know, the Man (and any figure of authority) scares me. After an uncomfortably long interrogation period at her little booth, the lady asked me to have a seat in a little area with four or five Africans. My first thought is: “Typical, then Man is cracking down on the black man.” After about five minutes waiting in this area, the lady came back and escorted me to go grab my luggage. This is when I figured out my trip wasn’t going to go quite as smoothly as I had hoped. Once I picked up my bag, the lady brought me through some pretty official looking doors into an area with 5 or 6 immigration officers lounging about. I dropped my bags off in a safe, and got searched. I’ve got searched so many times over the trip that if I had any sort of cancerous growth it would have been detected. At least that’s positive. So the lady brought me to this other room where I’m told they want to take my fingerprints. I am not digging this one bit. So they take my fingerprints into this CSI-style machine and they usher me into a detainment room. This place is pretty intense. After a walk around, I determine that they’re not kidding around. Everything is bolted down, the washrooms (men and ladies) have no locks on the doors and there are no mirrors. So here I am, in a room about 15 meters long and 4 wide with a couple other detainees. I soon came to learn their stories. But that’s for another post. So my new friends and I are sitting in this room, complaining about how cold it is since the heating is hardwired to the central controls, talking about why we’re here and generally hating pretty hard on the English. The guards periodically come in to see if we want sandwiches and to bring in new detainees. I got a couple interviews by an immigration officer to see what my deal was, but in the end, the Man determined that wanting to help a family build a house in exchange for food and housing would have required a Working Holiday Visa, something I didn’t have. I was then informed that the English were going to get me deported; a common theme in Acadian history. Sadly, because the next flight by airline was on Friday (I learn this on Wednesday), they need to send me to an immigration center since they can’t keep prisoners in the little room for more than 24 hours. She ushered me back into the room and I started thinking about my predicament. At around 7:30pm, after 8 hours in this crazy little room, an immigration officer stepped in and called my name; they’re shipping me off to an immigration center in Cambridge.
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