MaltaToday | 27 Jan 2008 | Deported on my honeymoon
NEWS | Sunday, 27 January 2008

Deported on my honeymoon

James Debono

Mexican immigration authorities can turn a honeymoon in to a nightmare, as MaltaToday journalist James Debono found out to his cost, in an incident that throws light on the horrific experience of being an ‘illegal immigrant’

Carefree holiday-makers and honeymooners crossing the Atlantic to discover the wonders of the Teotihuacan pyramids, the murals of Diego Rivera or the Cancun beaches, be warned: Mexican immigration can deport you for no justified reason whatsoever.
After a 10-hour flight from Frankfurt and a half-hour wait to get our passports checked by Mexican immigration, my wife and I commenced our honeymoon in a small room together with three Kenyan people who similarly awaited their fate.
The immigration officer simply nodded to another officer who took us to the small room and ordered us to wait. Nobody told us why we were being detained. When we started moving around the room a moustached officer with a sarcastic grin on his face simply ordered us to remain seated.
After more than an hour waiting a young woman from Lufthansa entered the room telling us that we needed a visa to enter Mexico City. She told us that we had to go back to Frankfurt.
Despite our protests that as EU citizens we did not need any visa, the Lufthansa representative advised us that it would be wiser to board the next plane because staying in Mexico could be dangerous for us.
We continued protesting saying that we wanted to speak to the immigration authorities but the Lufthansa representative insisted that they did not want to talk to us.
We could not even contact anyone in Malta, as there was no reception in that part of the airport, rendering our mobile phones useless.
“These things happen everyday,” one of the Lufthansa crew told us as we were boarding the airplane.
Desperate for a cigarette and devastated seeing our honeymoon plans wrecked, we boarded the plane for a second 10-hour flight back to Frankfurt. It was only then that a kind Lufthansa hostess helped us in phoning on the airplane.
“I am phoning from the airplane after being deported from Mexico City to Frankfurt… can you give me Minister Michael Frendo’s number?” I asked my work colleague Karl Schembri who at first could not comprehend what I was saying.
Immediately I contacted the Minister who assured me that Maltese citizens, like all EU citizens, do not need a visa to enter Mexico. He kept his promise. As soon as we landed we discovered that Maltese diplomacy had been fully deployed to assist us, with Malta’s ambassador to Italy Walter Balzan returning to work on his birthday to resolve the incident.
Malta’s ambassador to France, Vicky Anne Cremona, also intervened on our behalf with Mexico’s ambassador to France, and remained in contact with us until we finally arrived at our destination.
In Frankfurt we met Mexican consul Alfonso Arriaga who politely apologised for what had happened at the airport and offered his assistance.
He also appealed to Lufthansa to board us on the next plane to Mexico but the airline insisted that we had to pay for another return ticket to do so. Upon Arriaga’s insistence, Lufthansa asked us to come back the following morning.
At our own expense we spent the next night at a hotel in Frankfurt contemplating whether to return back to Malta or to proceed our holiday by making another attempt to enter Mexico.
The next morning we were informed by Lufthansa that the Mexican authorities had justified our deportation claiming that my passport had been forged. It was the same passport I had been used to visit five different countries since 2003.
Lufthansa had my passport checked by their own security officer who immediately certified my passport as regular. Armed with a letter from the Mexican consul assuring us safe passage through the Mexican airport, we took our third consecutive 10 hour flight across the Atlantic, where we still had all our hotels booked and paid for. It took us a full 30 hours of flying to reach our final destination.
We finally managed to get in to Mexico on Saturday evening – more than two days after leaving Frankfurt, and with four days left to discover the architectural and artistic wonders of Mexico City before leaving to Cuba where our real honeymoon started.
At which point, I can confirm that Phil Collins was right when he sang: “it’s no fun, being an illegal alien…”


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