Detained by Immigration Officers

I was as giddy as a school girl as I departed from Zaragoza, Spain to London to catch another connecting flight to Iceland. I scored a cheap ticket from the Bristol airport directly to Reykjavik, Iceland in the summer months, which is not easy, and I was off to see one of my dream destinations.

I imaged what Iceland might actually be like in person compared to the photos that I had seen in travel magazines and each moment that build up to my arrival the excitement and wonder grew.

I had always heard horror stories of people having troubles in the Stansted airport in London, but given that I was only passing through to my connecting flight, I was not too concerned about problems.

As I was waiting in the line at customs I confirmed my reservation for the rental car in the airport. I am not sure if I was more excited about visiting Iceland or about the chance to drive on the left side of the road in a manual vehicle for the first time.

Cheerfully, I hopped up to the immigration officer and laid out all of my plans. He asked me some general questions and then some more detailed ones about previous living arrangement in Spain a couple years back.

I went in prepared knowing that they would ask me questions, but all the sudden his questions stopped and he wrote what seemed to be a novel.

Without any further questions or real investigation on my future travel plans he said “I need you to come with me.”

I always tend to see the positive side of things, so I tried to overlook the fact that he placed me in a holding area with immigrants from foreign countries that were actually detained because they were actually breaking the law. I couldn’t help but overhear the officer talk to the man next to me.  This guy was detained beside me for doing illegal things in the airport and was misbehaving, yelling and causing a scene.

I looked the the officer and said, “Can you please tell me why you have me placed in the same area as this kind of person? I would like to know what I have done. All I want to do is see some beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, not cause trouble like that guy.”

My wait of a  “couple” of minutes turned into 1.5 hours.  I started to get restless because no one would tell me what was going on. I paced back and forth until finally I spotted my officer from across the airport coming my way.

I jumped up with my big smile, just waiting for him to give me the okay continue on my way. 

Instead, he told me to follow him to baggage area to collect my bag so that I could quickly go answer some more questions before being released.

As soon as I was taken to the back, my bags and cell phone were confiscated and I was put in a cold empty room. I waited for another hour before someone came into check on me.

I continued asking what the problem was, but no one could give me a clear answer.

At that point I had a feeling that something was not right, especially if they could not even let me go to the bathroom without supervision. They also mentioned that they need to pat me down and body check me so that I don’t get any ideas and try to hurt myself.

After my supervised trip to the bathroom, they took me to another room to take my mug shots and finger prints. They then handed me a paper that told that I would be locked up for further questioning.

I was then released in a locked room, with old couches, a few other people from different countries that were being detained for different reasons and two guards.  I got one free personal call in order to inform someone of the situation, and from there everything was beyond my control.

I tried to see the positive, so one thing I was thankful for was that this whole experience started at 2000. This still allowed me time for delays, and more than enough time to pick up my car rental up and drive two hours to the Bristol airport for my 0600 flight.

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Wishful thinking.

2200:  I was taken to the locked room with the couches- status: optimistic

2300: I was told it should not be too much longer and that surely I will make it time to pick up the car.

0000: I was told to be patient and that if I get released in the next thirty minutes I can still make it.

0100: I missed the rental car pick up. Still no word of the immigration officer.

At this point about every 5 minutes I continued asking the guard about the status of my detainment, but he continued to apologize and tell me there is nothing he could do.  

0200: Still waiting……

0230: New shift officer arrived for my “further questioning”

When the officer came in he looked straight at me and said “Umm, I can’t figure out why you are still here.” He then signaled the guard to give me my bags and let me leave without a single question asked.

In that moment I was not sure to be thankful or enraged at the fact that I waited all night and missed my rental car pickup that I had already paid for.

I left there with my mug shots as a souvenir, but without any answers or a way to get two hours away to the Bristol airport to catch my flight.

The officer apologized and told me not to worry that there would be a bus, train or another rental car company open to assist me.

It was about 0315 at that time and I ran as fast as I could to information center in the airport get help and find the best way to the Bristol airport.

They quickly informed me that there was absolutely no form of transportation that opens until 0700 and even if I went in a taxi I would not make it in time for my flight. I sat in the floor of the airport disappointed, looking at possible options for my travel to Iceland.

I assumed that maybe, just maybe, the immigration officer may help me since they held me for no given cause, but when I called him directly to tell him that he misinformed me about being able to catch my connecting flight he had no response except for, “we can’t help you because we are a separate unit from the airport.”

Long story short, I missed my flight and rental car pick up to Bristol. The only flight that was going out that same day was from Luton Airport, about one hour away and only in the morning.

The only way to get there at that time in the morning was a 180 dollar taxi.

I bought the new flight, took the taxi and thought my strand of bad luck was over, but it wasn’t. My luggage was a bit over the limit and the easy jet charged me 80 USD to check it……what a rip off!!!!

In our travels not everything goes how we want it. As I flew into Iceland I was exhausted after being awake for over 30+ hours, but I had decide if I was going to focus on all the bad things that just happened or if I would focus on all of my blessings, let it go, expect the best and enjoy the next part of my trip.

We don’t always have control over all the things that happen to us, but what we can control is our attitude towards the situations.

Thanks to that change in my attitude, I was able to see the positive in the situation and see the positive and enjoy the beautiful views of Iceland.

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In life, you won’t be able to control every situation that comes your way, but what you CAN control is how you choose to deal with it and if you give your situation permission to ruin your attitude and the day ahead of you.



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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comDetained by Immigration Officers