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UK Racial Profiling: My Experience as an “Abnormal” Migrant

Andrew Awad, MA International Studies and Diplomacy  

42 out of 195 countries are chosen by the UK government for the compulsory “Police Registration” process. Don’t worry if you have an American, French, Scandinavian or any other “normal” nationality. I hate using the binary “normal/abnormal” but that is, in my opinion, how the UK   government categorizes the people holding the nationality of these 42 “abnormal” countries. The laws of immigration oblige citizens of these states, mostly Middle Eastern, Asian, and South American ones, to perform a long process of submitting themselves to the police as part of the residence permit that allows them to stay in the UK. If the country is on the list, the person is 16 or older, and is staying in the UK for more than six months, the registration process becomes a must.  The official UK government website states that “some people need to register with the police after arriving in the UK with a visa, or after getting permission to stay for longer in the UK”. The latter is without any reasons for why only “some” need to register while others do not. Moreover, the “abnormal” person has to register within seven days of arrival in the UK.

Being a masters student in the UK from one of the “abnormal” countries, namely Egypt, I decided to share this as an exposure and awareness of something that most of the people from the “normal” countries know little about. I personally had to start applying in the first days of my arrival in the UK and I initiated the process through SOAS. I got the feeling and the sense of being put under a microscope for investigation with the amount of personal details required. After filling out the long form and attaching two pictures at SOAS, I got a letter to prove that I am legally going through the process.

“I was told at SOAS that I must never lose this letter as I have to show it to the authorities in case I am randomly questioned.”

40 days later, I received the most irritating email from SOAS informing me of my registration appointment at the “OVRO” which is the Overseas Visitors Records Office. The horrible email, in bold letters, read “Failure to attend this appointment without good reason could lead to curtailment of your visa, a prison sentence or a fine of up to £5,000.00”. Just take a breath and try to figure out the whole picture with me. Because I am Egyptian, I have to undergo this nearly two months’ process that ends with me going in person to an imposed registration appointment for what I can only understand as “legal censorship” or I will be imprisoned, fined, or have my visa curtailed! Isn’t the picture so horrible? It is even more awful when one goes there personally and queues outside this OVRO with people who all look like oneself. It seemed that only because of your skin colour or your physique that you have to submit yourself for surveillance. The censorship even goes further that the registered person, who within this picture could only be understood as a “dangerous object on society that has to be surveyed and monitored MORE than others”, has to inform the police with any change in the registered details for further “censorship” obviously. Ironically, the person has to pay 35 pounds for the registration as if paying for being censored! This racism is not performed by an extremist group or a political party, but it is legally performed by a state. This is “institutionalized racism” when a group of people is officially treated by the state differently just because they are from a certain country and not another. So if you are reading this today, this is a call to unite against racism.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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