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INS harasses Indo-Canadian woman
Ajit Jain in Toronto | February 15, 2003 03:40 IST
Member of Parliament Gurbax Malhi calls it highhandedness on the part of immigration officers at the Chicago airport to detain an Indo-Canadian woman, who wanted to take a connecting flight to Toronto, on flimsy charges on January 27.
An Immigration and Naturalisation Services officer, who was at the arrival counter, called Berna Cruz's passport photo 'funky' and took her to a separate room for questioning by a group of officials.
She was asked how she could have a Latin name. The officers were not convinced when Cruz, who was born in Thiruvananthapuram, told them that her family is from Goa, where such names are common.
Cruz, who was coming from India, was then told that she would either be jailed orásent backáto where she came from.
She reportedly started crying, telling the INS officers not to send her to jail. They then put her on a Kuwait Airlines flight bound for Kuwait via London.
Malhi says the sad part is they didn't even allow her to call Canadian diplomats.
They could have kept her at the airport and in the meantime investigated the veracity of her passport from the Canadian consulate, Malhi says.
Luckily, the Kuwait Airlines captain helped Cruz get in touch with Canadian diplomats in Dubai.
They reportedly issued her an emergency passport, as the INS officers had torn the first page of the original and stamped 'expedited removal' on the rest of the pages.
Even her Indian visa was defaced.
Malhi says he will meet Canadian Foreign Affairs minister Bill Graham and lodge a complaint.
Cruz has already lodged a complaint with Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Renald Doiron was quoted as saying: "We're going to bring her case to the attention of the state department in Washington and request an explanation on the INS refusal to grant at least one phone call to Ms Cruz..."