Close to home…but not too close!

A few days ago, I returned home after a short trip to Australia. The day started badly, and only got worse. Firstly, I arrived at the airport at 12:15pm for what I thought was a 2:15pm flight, only to find out that I’d got the time wrong and the plane didn’t leave til after 5pm! So, I had a long period sitting around at a highly boring airport, with next to nothing to do and next to nothing to eat. There was a couple of things there for a vegan to consume (mainly coffee and chippies/crisps), but by and large I remained hungry, knowing the flight itself wouldn’t be any better. Then, to make matters worse, my flight was delayed by just under an hour as the plane was late to arrive.

This was small fry stuff though, compared to what was to come. As I headed through passport control on my way to my gate, I was the only person to be trace-tested for explosives. Now, having dreads and generally not wearing the most professional looking clothes, I’m kinda used to getting extra attention, so this didn’t overly frustrate me in or of itself. What pissed me off, however, was the piece of paper they get you to read before they test you – essentially a consent form. The form was in a large number of different languages, the first of which, as one would expect, being English. In big bold lettering across the top, the words “random test”. I suppose thats meant to make the reciever feel a little better – like they aren’t being singled out simply for their skin colour, hairstyle or clothing. Of course, however, this is exactly what is happening. And guess what? Australian customs don’t even do a good job hiding it. The second language on the consent form for the “random” test? Arabic, of course. Because you just know there are enough arabic speakers heading through Sydney airport that enough are bound to get caught up in the “random” test to justify its second listing…yeah right! Arseholes. Either make it truly random, or stop pretending you aren’t racist, prejudiced fuckwits.

I then had a nice boring flight, and got home late at night. I knew my flatmates had come to pick me up, so I was looking forward to getting home again. New Zealand Customs, however, had a different idea.

While going through passport control, I was subject to significant questioning – about the countries I had visited on that passport (from memory, as they had already taken it from me!) and when/where/why I was there, about my dreads (how long I’ve had them) and my glasses (why wasn’t I wearing them? The answer being contact lenses). Still, after 15-20 minutes of that (as opposed to most people taking 15-20 seconds), I figured I was through and could go home. Once again, it was not going to be so easy…

I was the only person from my flight put into the hardcore customs line – everyone else was allowed to choose to declare or not declare as they saw fit, while I was ordered to go to the furtherst aisle where I would be subject to a more in depth check. I was there, all up, for approximately 2 hours! During my time, I saw 4-5 other flights go through, and not a single other person was sent to the in depth aisle.

So, while I was there, I had to unpack every single item from my big pack and my carry-on bag. Much of it was subject to x-ray to ensure there weren’t any drugs inside (items like my sleeping bag, cellphone, both bags..basically anything with an enclosed space), while a number of other items were swabbed and tested for drug traces. While this was happening, the Customs agent asked me questions which I had to answer, if I ever wanted to get to the other side and go home. Some predictable questions – Have you ever done drugs? Have you ever been convicted? What is your occupation? Some questions were a bit weirder, a lot more personal and quite invasive – in depth questioning on my political beliefs, questioning on why I was interested in radical Jewish theory, which moved on to questioning and him attempting to deny my Jewish identity because I am atheist…and then, my belongings…

Most of the questioning, and most of what he wrote down in his little notebook, was related to my belongings. Below I will reprint the items that he had an issue with – some are simply bizarre and quite pathetic. It’s quite disturbing to see what they are interested in…

Patches

“Chemicals make our lives better” – text with picture of 2 headed alien figure

“Good Night White Pride” – text with image of antifa kicking a falling fascist

“Consumption is a disease not a lifestyle” – text

“We all know it’s wrong but we don’t speak up. We don’t speak up. I’m unsur and I’m afraid and I don’t really know if this is the right thing to do. But I tell you this: The silence ends here and now” – text with image of young girl on highway pointing to a circle-a roadsign. And yes, he actually wrote down the whole text!

oceania.indymedia.org” – Text with Indymedia logo / skull and crossbones.

www.stopg20.org” – Text and logo for the Stop G20 crew.

And a patch with 4 little black block figures pointing at a map and scheming.

Books

Reinventing Anarchy – What anarchists are thinking these days – This book has about 2 dozen contributing authors, he wrote down 3 then gave up!

The Bookseller Of Kabul by Asne Seierstad – A book about a bookseller in Kabul that my Sister gave to me to read…not exactly politically revolutionary material!

East End Jewish Radicals 1875 – 1914 by William J. Fishman – It’s a fucking historical case study of Jews in London in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s for fucks sake. When he wrote this down, I was fucking fuming at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Other Stuff

Anarchism: What it is and what it isn’t by Chaz Bufe – A short pamphlet which I offered to leave with him to read. He said thanks but no thanks…

Trouble Makers: Anarchism and Syndicalism, The Early Years Of The Libertarian Movement in Aotearoa by Frank Prebble – Once again, Customs doesn’t like people learning about history from the early 1900′s…

Mutiny – A zine from a Sydney anarchist crew. Coming to Aotearoa infoshops soon, so keep your eye out!

A communique on tactics and organisation to the black bloc from within the black bloc – This pamphlet REALLY freaked him out, it was kinda funny to watch. Even funnier was when he kept looking for the author’s names and refused to understand the concepts of pseudonyms or anonymity.

And last but not least, an article that I’d cut out of the Dominion Post, headlined “Mosque suspect can’t be banned”. It was about a stupid kid who graffitid swastikas and other things on a Lower Hutt Mosque but can’t be banned because he’s too young. This was near the end of my wait, and I realised he’d just been writing basically from dictation rather than actually taking in anything I said when he asked: “So, are you for or against racism?”

And perhaps the most pathetic thing of all? Their excuse for why I got called into the in depth check was that the woman at passport control thought my hands were “too soft”! Too soft for what? Fucked if I know…

Arseholes, the lot of ‘em.

25 Responses to Close to home…but not too close!

  1. Jude says:

    WTF!! Note to self, don’t get dreads in the next 6 months.

    and back to my original thought:
    WTF?? Asher, meat-eater extraordinaire, vegan??? Oh how things change!

    (PS – I presume you can see my email address. If you email it I might mail you directly rather than leaving random comments on your blog!)

  2. Anti-Flag says:

    Asher, that’s one hell of a story. I remember when i went through Sydney airport, and ironically was being checked over by Arab security. They weren’t too bad actually. Until customs drilled me with questions about why i had a Quraan in my bag, and why i was heading to L.A. with it. Never will forget the look of horror. Could just read the guy’s expression- she’s a freedom-hating terrorist! This came after the dramatic hand gestures in an effort to communicate with me because i looked Middle Eastern, therefore i could not possibly understand english. Of course. L.A. airport was not so bad actually, aside from being asked 20 different times what my purpose in the U.S. was. Visiting family just wasn’t good enough. Mind you, all this was in 2003. They were still new at this whole implementing laughable asinine laws for the sake of ‘national security’.

  3. Asher says:

    I remember leaving Tel Aviv airport to come back to Aotearoa shortly after the spy scandal broke in the media.

    At TLV, they check your passports while you’re waiting in line and split you up into 3 queues – Israeli Jew, International and Palestinian Israeli/Middle Eastern appearance.

    When they checked my passport and saw I was from New Zealand, they rushed me through and told me to bypass all 3 queues, and that my bags didn’t need to go through the x-ray machine!

    I guess they wanted to avoid making another NZ’er pissed off – personally, I was just pretty happy not to have to wait :)

  4. Anti-Flag says:

    Having a NZ passport didn’t really help in my case. Especially seeing as it says i’m born in Afghanistan. I wonder if that’ll be a problem for me when i go to ‘Israel’.

  5. nicole says:

    i’m surprised the airline didn’t do you for overweight luggage – all those books sound heavy. (I came back with 25 kg suitcase and 10 kg hand luggage – no problems though)

    enjoy the bookseller of kabul (most definitely revolutionary material :-)

  6. George Darroch says:

    Fuck they’re stupid and arrogant… I know somebody who got fired and barred from working at Auckland International Airport after pointing (relatively obvious, but unfixed) security flaws. Apparently they were uncomfortable with the fact that he was a Muslim who knew more than them.

    And profiling for terrorists is a dumb game for many reasons, but mainly because it’s pretty ineffective.

  7. Asher says:

    Nah, I wasn’t overweight – had about 17kg and about 4-5 in hand luggage.

    After I got back and told the story to a couple of people, some responded “that sucks, but it’s understandable after what happened in London.”

    Putting aside whether it would be understandable, were that relevant, the simple fact is that it isn’t relevant at all! They didn’t stop me, search me and interrogate me because they thought I might be a terrorist, they did it because they thought I was smuggling drugs. It was only after they started searching that they realised I was political and took a (disturbing) interest in that.

    Fuck, I’m not stupid – if I was going to smuggle drugs, the first thing I would do is cut my dreads off and wear a suit…

  8. dr_depravo says:

    Ha, I was coming back from Australia into Dunedin airport and got pulled into the hardcore customs line because my nail polish was all chipped.
    They did a nice big search on my bags and found my NORML membership card, apparently taht was enough for them to strip search me as a possible border hazard.
    They seemed to be getting off on teh idea of strip searching me, but when I got naked and they saw the pretty scar pictures I’ve got cut into me they freaked teh fuck out. The cop just couldn’t understand the idea taht I done them to myself.

  9. kakariki says:

    Soft hands? Why were you touching customs officers hands? eugh!
    Next time make sure you have a patch that says “sedition is for wimps”

  10. Asher says:

    Thats a fucking funny slogan – I might have to make patches with it ;)

  11. Asher says:

    Oh, and I wasn’t touching their hands, they only got a brief glimpse when I handed my passport over!

  12. kakariki says:

    Go ahead, the slogan is available on open license ;) I recommend you have a little cartoon of an exploding bomb next to the words

  13. Dr. Cam says:

    You have the smooth, silky skin of a terrorist, dude!

  14. renee says:

    for god sakes asher,dont you realise whats going on in the world at the moment,what a stupid question but i have to say it after your ridiculous comments about inter-national flight,of course they are going to search you,maybe not initially but after finding some of the possesions that you had on you im amazed you got off without a cavity search,your a jew(an activist),theres a war going on in israel and you have just been travelling,of couse they are going to question you!

    (it wont suprise me if this comment doesnt appear)

  15. Asher says:

    Renee Nelson, that comment was remarkably tame of you. Trying to hide the fact that you’re a psychotic Nazi, perhaps?

    Say hi to your lovely housemates Perry Adank and Nic Miller, and I hope you all die slow, painful deaths.

    Cheerio!

  16. Asher says:

    Oh, and in case you havent noticed, I don’t hide any actual comments on this blog, whether they are by fascists such as yourself, Nic Miller or George Walters, or by ultra-right Zionists such as Michael.

    I much prefer leaving you to show your true stupidity yourselves.

  17. George Darroch says:

    The woman at passport control was obviously a radical class based Marxist who thought that as someone not engaged in heavy manual labour, you couldn’t be part of the proletarian revolutionary vanguard, and were therefore a reactionary traitor to be opposed.

    Those Marxists are taking over I tell you!

  18. Asher says:

    Hehe…damn them to hell!

  19. Peter says:

    Praise be to ZOG the Messiah returns to save the world

    OH about time the Messiahs struggles were written down in a holy book

  20. George Darroch says:

    Fuck off Peter you racist crap.

  21. Rich says:

    You know that when Australia was importing Southern Europeans in the 1940′s as cheap labour, having “soft hands” would get you turned away. The reason being that they didn’t want anyone educated who might get uppity – just manual workers.

    Obviously this still continues..

    Still I suppose you could take comfort in this joke from the past:
    “why do Australian (formerly East German) policeman go round in threes? – one can read, one can write and the others to keep an eye on the two dangerous intellectuals.”

  22. Asher says:

    hehe, nice joke.

    This wasn’t in Australia though – my issues were with getting back into Aotearoa. Not really sure what they thought they could do – it’s not like they could stop me entering the country.

  23. George says:

    hey Asher, any tips on getting through customs and passport control? :p I’m travelling through a couple later this week…

  24. Asher says:

    Wear clothes that look as “normal” as possible – no visible patches, etc etc. You should be able to pull that off reasonably easily :)

    Have a passport in good condition.

    Don’t look like you’re too confident and know exactly what you’re saying, but don’t be unconfident either.

    Good luck!

  25. Marcus says:

    Similar thing happened to me the first time I travelled down under, not a nice experience! Seems to happen quite a lot now.

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