Former PM of Norway shocked when he is detained at Washington DC’s Dulles airport for visiting Iran three years ago.
Washington Feb4:A former prime minister of Norway has spoken of his ‘shock’ after he was questioned at Washington DC’s Dulles airport because of a visit to Iran three years ago.
Kjell Magne Bondevik, who served as prime minister of Norway from 1997-2000 and 2001-05, flew into the US from Europe on Tuesday afternoon to attend this week’s National Prayer Breakfast.
He was held for an hour after customs agents saw in his diplomatic passport that he had been to Iran in 2014. Bondevik said his passport also clearly indicated that he was the former PM of Norway, reported The Guardian.
“Of course I fully understand the fear of letting terrorists come into this country,” he told ABC7. “It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport, [that I’m a] former prime minister.
Bondevik, who is the president the Oslo Centre, a human rights organisation, said he was placed in a room with travellers from the Middle East and Africa who were also facing extra scrutiny.
Although the United States has a visa waiver programme with 30 countries, the Barack Obama administration introduced a law in 2011. Prior to this, an individual from one of these 30 countries had to just show his/her passport at immigration and walk through.
In 2011, to deal with the security situation in the west, Obama’s administration put out a list of countries that posed a security threat specifically to the west. The seven countries that have been listed by US President Donald Trump in his executive orders also fell into this list.
After this, if an individual from a visa waiver country had visited any of these countries after March 2011, then he/she would need a visa interview to come to the United States
Bondevik said Dulles officials told him he had been detained because of this ruling.But he said he had never had a problem visiting the US before, and that his office was told by the US embassy in Oslo before his trip that his passport and a separate electronic travel authorisation were all he needed.
“I must admit that I fear the future. There has been a lot of progress over the last 10 years, but this gives great cause for concern, in line with the authoritarian leaders we see controlling other major countries.”
Not a new thing
While protocol exempts world leaders and diplomats from security checks, what Bondevik endured in the United States isn’t something new. Several Indian diplomats, and actor Shah Rukh Khan have been put through thorough security, with the actor going through it on more than one occasion.
In 2011, former India president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam underwent a security check at New York’s JFK airport. Dr Kalam had undergone a similar check in 2009, despite being part of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security’s list of people exempted from security screening in India.
Former defence minister George Fernandes was strip-searched twice at Washington’s Dulles international airport in 2002 and 2003 and he had “angrily” narrated the incident to then Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.
Talbott had narrated this incident in his book ‘Engaging India – Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb’.
Meera Shankar, the Indian ambassador to the US between 2009 and 2011, was subjected to a pat-down search in December 2010 by security personnel at Mississippi airport though she was travelling on a diplomatic passport. The reason for the security search was that she was wearing a sari.