Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dear UK Border Agency, Where Is My Missing Bag? Asks Ify Otuya Nigerian Model and Singer


Dear UK Border Agency, Where Is My Missing Bag?



Ify Otuya


25/06/2013

To whom it may concern,

RE: Dear UK Border Agency, Where is My Missing Bag?

I am writing this letter to give an account of the circumstances that preceded the loss of my bag at the hands of UK Border Agency on the night of 12/062013 at Stanstead Airport. I am also urging an immediate investigation to rectify the matter and most hopefully return my lost bag to me. In Nov 2012 whilst in the UK, I applied for a visa extension, which Home Office denied a few months later in March 2013. My Nigerian passports were then withheld by UK Border Agency and I was offered an Assisted Voluntary Return ticket – as is offered generally on the UKBA website to all unsuccessful applicants who are in the UK. I booked an appointment with UKBA, accepted the ticket offer and was booked on a Lagos-bound chartered flight scheduled to leave on the 12th of June 2013. I accepted the offer without any fuss. No one had to spend paperwork or dispatch Home Office staff to chase me. I simply complied fully with Home Office, booked a ticket with UKBA, and showed up at the airport by myself with my suitcases on the day of my departure (although an hour late but an hour before my scheduled flight) to check in.

Whilst at Stanstead airport (just before being transported in a van, to the airport extension area a few miles off Stanstead airport premises, where we were to load the chartered flight), I was informed for the first time that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any of my handbags as hand luggage. I had two handbags, a few loose items and suitcases. I put the hand bag that was with me into a carrier suitcase offered to me by one of the staff in the van, but my second hand bag – a green-blue (teal) big handbag, unzipped, with a number of valuable items in it, including a visible macbook in a black synthetic case – was with another staff . He (the other staff) urged me not to worry about my suitcases and said he would load my bags that were with him on to the van. Initially, I wanted to do it myself. He wheeled the teal hand bag on a trolley along with some of my other suitcases to the back of the van, and loaded the items from the trolley into the boot of the van. Because it was done out of sight, I cannot say whether he loaded the teal bag – which l later realised was missing, or whether he left it on the trolley at the back of the van and then drove off in the van leaving my bag back at the airport. Either way, it is not something that CCTV footage from the evening cannot investigate and confirm. I didn’t spend more than 30 minutes at Stanstead airport before we drove off to the extension area. While at the extension area, I was scanned and checked on to the charter flight.

When I got on the flight, the immigration officers on the flight said to me that they had put my loose bags into a big carrier bag and that all my belongings had been sealed up safely. But when we arrived at Lagos, I noticed that my teal bag was missing and I immediately told them. One of the officers confirmed that he never saw the teal bag back at the Stanstead extension area (although he was not at the Stanstead main area, where the van was loaded) , which would indicate that my bag never left the Stanstead main area, or was not offloaded from the van on arrival at the Stanstead extension area. He confirmed that he definitely did not put the teal bag into the big carrier bag. The bag could not have been lost in Lagos either, because the other staff at the Stanstead extension area who helped take my belongings off the van, said they never saw the bag, how much more loaded it onto the plane. Again, this is not something that cannot be investigated and confirmed by going through CCTV footage from the evening. I personally took my teal bag to the airport and I most certainly can confirm that the bag arrived at the Stanstead main area. I paid for a trolley and put it on the trolley myself. The officer responsible for sealing up my items at the Stanstead extension area and allocating an ID to my bags was a colleague of Mark Deegan – another staff who traveled with us and whose name I collected. It was Mark Deegan who then made a number of calls on arrival in Lagos, to Inflite and Charter Office, to report my lost bag incident. He got through to someone, reported the case, left my contact number with them and told me that they would call me back. He left the numbers of Charter office and Inflite with me, but no one called back. After making a number of repeated calls to these offices myself, I eventually got through to staff at Inflite the next day, where the boss of the company hung up on me without even trying to help me locate my precious bag! I wasn’t being rude to her at all, I simply insisted that I needed to find my bag and stated the fact that it was UKBA and affiliates fault, that my bag was missing. And she hung up on me! Mark Deegan had said Inflite was the company contracted to transport the passengers on my flight, and that they worked with Stanstead airport security, which was why I called them in the first place. To have the boss of the company hang up on me was utterly unimaginable. When I called back immediately (speaking to a different staff of the company this time) and said that I had recorded the previous conversation and intended to use it as evidence against the company, I was told that the boss did not hang up, that the cable simply came out of the socket right at the time that my conversation with the boss terminated!

I just want my bag back with all the items intact! Where is my bag?

The bag lost by UKBA contained jewellery, official and personal letters, Tax Back form, one macbook, a USB key portable hard drive, tons of intellectual property, Cash in N1,000 notes, unpublished music and photo files, a newly written book in electronic copy, a samsung phone, box of chocolates, etc.

I have made so many calls, I am now tired of calling and trying to reach anyone. All the times I got through to Charter Office, I was only made to narrate the whole ordeal again, leave a contact number and told (every time without failing) that I would be called back the next day. However, no one has ever called me back. Not once! Having said that, not being called back at all by Charter Office (I spoke with Donna Lang more than once) is far more dignifying than having the boss of a UKBA affiliate company – Inflite -hang up on me for simply asking for my missing bag. I’ve heard so many stories about deportees and immigrants being subjected to horrible protocols, injustices and abuses at the hands of UKBA, I never thought that I would one day be at the receiving end of such despicable treatment. I have no criminal record in the UK nor anywhere else and have never been on state benefit in my entire life! I simply got denied a visa extension and this was what reduced me to the status of a deportee, worthy to be hung up on in the most reprehensible manner, by a big shot boss who represents an elite corporate establishment. Will I ever get my bag back? It’s not like I invaded anybody in Libya or Iraq and stole their oil for my country men and their children… and then got away with it. It is also not like I enjoy privileges from imperialism – whether Western or Islamic imperialism. I just want my bag so I can carry on with my life in peace and make some kind of tangible contribution to this world as I have tried to by taking up painstaking research worth a year, to write a book! I mean, if the boss can’t rectify a problem, who else can? I imagine this is the kind of treatment deportees are normally subjected to. I imagine I would have never found out for myself had I never been booked on that flight. One can only wonder what else transpires on deportee flights, that don’t get reported.

I just want my bag back. UK Border Agency, where is my missing bag?

Why UKBA and affiliate staff refused to let me hold on to any of my hand bags at the airport, I do not know. I was self-check in after all. I had simply accepted a travel ticket offered by Home office. I also do not know why UKBA staff did not check my hand bag in, nor did they tell me beforehand to make sure I packed my hand luggage in my suitcase myself to avoid losing it at the airport at the hands of UKBA. No one said before departure date that the implication of accepting a ‘free’ travel ticket from Home Office was the unaccounted loss of my intellectual property, macbook, personal items, and other valuables. Why UKBA and affiliates have refused to call me to tell me what less than an hour of airport CCTV footage showed them about the whereabouts of my bag – if anyone even bothered checking the whereabouts of the immigrant’s bag, that is – I do not know for sure.

Nothing would please me more than having my book returned to me so that I can continue sharing it in peace with my fans, readers and supporters like I was doing before UKBA lost it. I already published the Preface  and was due to publish the first chapter, the week after UKBA lost my bag. I have no other back up besides the copies on my macbook and USB key (which were in the bag). I have since prepared myself for the worst outcome and attempted to rewrite the lost chapters, but it was not the same. I didn’t even know where to start from. It is a lot of research, references and analyses now lost! I am not in the same state of mind either that I was creatively, when I began writing the book a year ago. I also cannot afford to give the same amount of time. I gave a year already towards researching and validating my theory about religio-political reformation, secularism, human rights and imperialism; which is what my book is on. I really need my bag back.

I just want my bag back, with all the items in it intact. I have letters for my tax back in the bag – including my P45, P60 and payslips – that I had to wait nearly a month to collect from my previous employer. To get a third party to collect another P45 form for my Tax Back application now, would cost me money, which I have no interest at all in paying for. I would have sent off the form already had UKBA not lost my bag. I had written and recorded compositions for my new album (which I will begin work on next week). I need to replay these compositions to my producer in Lagos, so he can reproduce the ideas and lyrics for my new album. However, I do not now have access to these original compositions. I may be able to reproduce them in bits and pieces as close to their original form as I can, but they will not be the same. Rewriting work I had written before is an inconvenience as well a s a setback, to say the least. I had some of these music files on my macbook and most of it on my USB key. I do not see any reason why UKBA would lose my bag with all the valuable items in it – including my precious macbook that was sticking out the bag and everyone could clearly see – and then decide to not have an ounce of integrity to call me to at the very least apologise, if it was stolen at the airport by a third party as a result of UKBA/ affiliated staff leaving it there. Or did UKBA staff help themselves to the valuables in my bag? Is this why UKBA is avoiding calling me, even though I had Mark Deegan call them immediately after my flight arrived at Lagos and I realised that my hand bag was missing? UKBA is always going on about ‘the problem with immigrants’ as if immigrants are the greatest monstrosity British society has ever been cursed with, meanwhile I as an immigrant co-operated with UKBA, with full integrity. A £3.000 bond has just been levied on Nigerian (and a number of other global south) citizens traveling to the UK, making it even more difficult for Nigerians to travel to the UK. But no one is keen on doing anything about Nigerians who leave the UK voluntarily and have their rights violated by UKBA. I wanted to hold my hand bag by myself at the airport, but your staff wouldn’t let me, and I didn’t want to argue with anyone so I just went on with everything they said. Why didn’t they check my teal hand bag in, when everyone could clearly see that a laptop was in there?

I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the time, nor the resources or even desire to keep making redundant calls to different offices, just to have people like the boss of Inflite hang up on me just because I was booked on the chartered deportee flight to Nigeria, even though I was only calling to chase up my bag that was lost by none other than UK Border Agency and affiliates. I seriously doubt that she would have hung up on me if I was a Western citizen. I am now writing this detailed letter, expressing my disapproval, my frustration and sending the letter to as many people as I think could be helpful to me getting my bag back or at the least, finding out its whereabouts. If you’ve lost my bag, please call me yourself to tell me you have lost it, and tell me what I’m meant to do now that you’ve lost an incredible amount of my intellectual property. Granted, there are downsides to not owning a British passport, but this is an ultimate low ordeal for non members of the global elite Western citizenry.


Yours Sincerely,

Ify Otuya
Motha Sankaratite.