A British father today told how his family, including nine children, were banned from flying to the US because they are Muslim.
Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, 41, his brother and their children, aged between eight and 19, were stopped at the departure gate at Gatwick airport by a UK Border Agency official and told their visas to the US had been revoked.
They were given no explanation why their ESTA visas, organised six weeks before the flight, were cancelled.
The ban comes just days after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for all Muslims to be stopped from entering the US.
Now Mr Mahmood has called on David Cameron to demand an explanation from the American authorities and is seeking an £11,000 refund for the cost of the airline tickets to Los Angeles.
Gym owner Mr Mahmood said they were going to a reunion with family in California after 15 years and hoped to visit Disneyland and other tourist sites.
The party were forced to hand back their duty free items and the children in tears.
Mr Mahmood, who was born in Pakistan, came to the UK when he was just 12, when his father came to work as a chartered accountant.
He said: “We had been planning the trip for four to five months and my kids had countdowns on their phones.
“It had been about ten or fifteen years since we’d had the whole family together.
“My kids were really looking forward to seeing their cousins, they live in California. We’d planned skydiving and a desert safari and the kids were all keeping up and talking about it through social media. They’d made a lot of plans.
“Our flight was on Tuesday last week (Dec 15) and it was meant to leave at 12:35 in the afternoon. We’d checked in and we’d bought things in duty free.
“We were waiting in the queue at the gate and we were very close to getting on the plane.
“Then an announcement said they wanted to speak to Mr Mohammad. There was no one else of Asian origin or who looked Muslim so I knew it was me.
“A gentleman said he was from British Border Control and he had a border control jacket on.
“He said there was something wrong with my ESTA and that I wouldn’t be able to board.
“I had made sure we had our ESTAs cleared six weeks ago so I couldn’t think what could be wrong.
“I asked why we weren’t allowed to board. I had to be persistent. He wouldn’t tell me why and said he didn’t know at first.
“He finally said they had had a call from Washington DC from homeland security and that I wasn’t allowed to board. He wouldn’t tell me anything more.
“I felt humiliated and my kids were tearful they were so upset. My son hasn’t left the house, he is so upset.
“We just had to go home and return everything we’d bought duty free.
“I’d never experienced anything like that before. I live in a multicultural area and I have my own gym so I spend a lot of time with different people from all kinds of different cultures.
“I respect these people need to react if there is a genuine concern but they need to make sure this concern is genuine.
“They need to check our backgrounds, check our accounts and check our businesses before they react like that. They can’t react like that just because we are Muslim.
“We are decent people. My kids are obviously upset. They know why it happened and they know what is going on in the world.
“It could be because of Donald Trump as why otherwise would all of this spring up on us.
“Our MP has been very helpful but she is saying she has hit a brick wall and needs Mr Cameron to help.
“We still haven’t had refunds for £11,000 worth of flights. It was a two week holiday and my brother booked skydiving and all sorts including a minibus as there were so many of us. He will have lost a lot of money from that.
“I just want an explanation. Or else, where is this all going to stop?”
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