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British Muslim Family Barred From California-Bound Flight, No Reason Given

The family had planned to visit Disneyland before they were barred from getting on the plane to Los Angeles.
Reuters /Landov
The family had planned to visit Disneyland before they were barred from getting on the plane to Los Angeles.

Members of a British Muslim extended family of 11 with legitimate U.S. visas were stopped in London as they were about to fly to Los Angeles to visit Disneyland.

All the British border control agent could tell the family was "they've had a phone call from Washington, D.C., telling them that we're not to board the plane," would-be traveler Mohammed Tariq Mahmood told The Guardian.

"We planned this trip for like two months, the kids are excited, and then some person just comes and says you're not allowed to board the plane with no explanation given," Mahmood says in the video interview. "It's devastating, it's like we were alienated — just taken out of the room."

NPR's Larry Miller told our Newscast unit that a British member of Parliament asked Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene — and Cameron said he would look into the issue. These travelers are not the only British Muslims who have been turned back from Gatwick Airport as they tried to go to the United States, says British lawmaker Stella Creasy. Here's more from Larry:

"The family, which includes nine children, had U.S. permission to visit Disneyland and relatives in California. Their nonrefundable tickets cost $14,000. One of the party told The Guardian there was no explanation but, 'It's obvious, America thinks every Muslim poses a threat.'

Separately, a British Muslim who has traveled to the United States five times this year on a business visa says he was stopped at the airport and also given no reason."

Creasy says she has "hit a brick wall" trying to get answers from the American Embassy, Larry reports. She says the issue is particularly sensitive for British Muslims right now: "U.K. Muslims believe they are 'being Trumped,' referring to Donald Trump's call to ban foreign Muslims entering America."

A U.S Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told The Associated Pressthat the "religion, faith or spiritual beliefs of an international traveler are not determining factors' when deciding if a person can travel to the United States." Other reasons could be the cause, the spokesperson said, like health issues or a criminal record.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.