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Can This Information Be Requested Under FOI?

A has been a regular traveller tO the UK for about 3 years before this incident and at the time of the incident he holds a 5-year visitor's visa.

Sometimes in late 2005, A embarked upon a trip to the UK and on getting to the port of entry, the following dialogue ensued between A and the IO.

IO: "What is the purpose of your visit?"

A: "Holiday"

IO: "How long do you intend to stay"

A: "1 week"

IO asked other general questions about where A works, how long he's been at the work to which A answered without any issues. Then

IO: "Have you ever lost your passport or declared it stolen"

A: "No, not at any time before"

IO: "Have you ever been refused a UK visa"

A: "No, never"

IO: "Well I have it on record that you applied for a visitor's visa about 4 months ago, which was refused"

A: "That can't possible be, I have a 5-year visa which I applied for about 2 years ago so I should have no  reason to apply for another visa while I still have this one"

IO: "Well I'm afraid I would have to hold your entry you while I carry out further investigation. I will give you this note to tell you why you are being 'detained'.

A: This must have been a mix up. I can't possibly have applied for a visa 4 months ago.

At this point, A was given a white half-page form that indicated that he was being detained while an entry decision is being reached by the IO. He was asked to step aside and sit in one of the rows of chairs nearby.

After about an hour of waiting, the IO office came back and called A to the desk.

IO: "I'm sorry for keeping you waiting, but we have had to carry out some investigations and we concluded that you are genuinely the holder of the passport and we had no reason to believe that you are the same person that applied for the visa couple of months back"

A: At this point, relieved beyond description but deciding to enquire more on this incident.   "Ok thanks for clarifying this as this is a very embarrassing situation for me. And I would really like to find out the identity of the person that made this application as I'm sure he must have submitted his photograph with the application"

IO: I'm sorry, I am not allowed to disclose this information by law.

A: "You have kept me here over 1 hour under an alleged fraudulent visa application and you won't disclose who was behind this. it is my information and credibility involved here."

IO: "I'm really sorry sir but I cannot disclose that information to  you. You might contact the BHC in Lagos regarding this incident"

A: "So how am I sure that I won't be 'detained' in a similar manner on this issue when next I visit the UK"

IO: "I am making a note on what happened here today so that there would be no occurence"

A: "Ok thank you."

IO: "Have a good trip."

That ended on that note, A went away on his holiday and returned to nigeria a week later. However he didn't bother taking up the issue with BHC in lagos as he thought since the IO has properly investigated and declared that this was a case of identity theft, there would be no further issues on this. Although A did give a long thought about how his details could have been obtained to make that application possible. He usually keeps his passport very secure and the only places where he'd had any reason to let it out of his sight was when he submitted it at an agency in Ikoyi that helped him on a non appearance schengen visa renewal and when he gave it out at gtb for photcopying while trying to pay the vfs visa fees.

About 8 months later, A took a trip again to the UK without any issues. He got in at the point of entry without any drama.

However some couple of months later again, A took another trip to the UK, this time he had any similar incident with the interviewing IO at the port of entry.

After the usual general questions about how what his visit was  for, how long he was staying which A answered without any issues,

IO: "Have you been refused a visa before"

A: (Thinking, oh oh, not again) "No I have not and I have this being asked on second earlier visit which I was held and investigations carried out and at the end I was let go. It was clearly a case of identity theft and I thought this would have been removed the last time by the interviewing IO". Here is the form I was given the last time when this came up. (A brought out the white form he was given as he'd made sure to take this on all his subsequent trips"

IO: I'm sorry Sir but I would still have to treat this case on its own merit and carry out an investigation. I am giving you a note indicating the reason why I am detaining you"

A was then asked to step aside and sit nearby while investigations was being carried out. Where a sat, there were few people waiting with similar issues.

After about an hour again the IO officer came out and apologised to A and indicated that he would be allowed in.

A: "I really need to be sure that this issue won't happen again as this has now gone beyond embarrassment"

IO: "I'm afraid these things do happen and there is nothing much we can do about it. The information we have available from your records in BHC in lagos is read-only to us and can only be modified from there,so it's best you contact them."

A: "So was any action taken against the fraudulent applicant as this was clearly a case of fraud. If not I need to have his picture so I can instigate a criminal charge against the person in Lagos"

IO: "I'm afraid sir, that is personal information which I cannot disclose to you under the law"

A: 'But this is also my personal identity involved here so why can't his details be revealed and how will I be sure that I won't be subjected to this harrowing experience again on my next visit"

IO: "I cannot give you that guarantee Sir as each visit is treated on its own merit"

A left, went for his holidays and came back to Nigeria.

He wrote the embassy on this incident, included a scan colored copy of all his uk visas and other visas on his passport and indicated that he was willing to make physically available with his passport at the BHC just to confirm his identify and clear this issue once and for all. BHC wrote him back saying that the case had been passed to the relevant department for investigation. HOwever A heard nothing back after this.

After this a secured a 1 year resident visa to the UK and currently resided in the UK. He had no further issues at the port of entry on his last trip.

My question:  A just learnt about the Freedom of Information Act 1998 which indicates that he can request for any information held about him by any public institution in the UK. Can A request to see the information held about him and the picture of the individual that made the fraudulent application.

Also what is your view on this whole scenario.

I would love to hear from someone with good knowledge in this area. LondonCool, Akolawole, VOR, Pataki etc.

Please: I'm trying to conceal personal details here so I'll appreciate if I don't have to answer if this was me or someone else - at least not on this forum. And sorry this have to be another long post again. It is really an incident I would love to know how best it's best handled (or is it left alone). Regards

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7 answers

@LondonCool - From what I know of the case, this happened about 2 years ago and I don't think the biometric (fingerprint) requirements was in place then, just the normal photos and signature. The subject has already written to the BHC in this regards and while no conclusive ackowledgement of a record update was given, in the absence of further entry issues, one can only presume that the record update had been done.

Regarding the possibility of the subject being an accomplice, well like you said 'no one knows'and possibly no one might ever. I'll be inclined to look at the motivation based on the scenario depicted. No point in deliberating on this however - as it would forever be subjected to differing perspectives. The most important is your opinion, promptly given as requested. For this I thank you. Regards

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Thanks so much everyone for the input.

@Akolawole - It seems BHC in this case lacked the will to pursue any further investigations on this. However if they had, this was not communicated to the subject. I wonder if the amount of similar cases they'd probably see on a frequent basis makes this one  inconsequential for them.

@VOR - thanks for the insight on the SAB. I'm looking up info I could find on this.

@Pataki - thanks for bringing this to B_B's attention.

@big_bumper - your emphasis on the difference between the DPA and FOI was very useful.

@Funkybaby - that is my thought as well. The subject has been using this agency in Ikoyi for quite a while for tickets and knows the owner personally. Unfortunately he couldn't vouch for the staff that unavoidably handle most paperwork.

@Brownbono - thanks for the letter format.

I know I could count on the very knowledgeable guys here.

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Send your query to address below with £10 cheque

The Data Protection Unit

Lunar House

40 Wellesley Rd

Croydon

CR9 2BY

Sample letter-

The Subject Access Bureau

Lunar House

40 Wellesley Road

Croydon

CR9 2BY

For the attention of Data Protection Compliance Manager

Dear Sir/Madam

I understand, under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) I have right of access to information concerning me.

I would therefore like to have a copy of all the personal data held on me by Immigration and Nationality Department.

I am enclosing a postal order for £10 and my details are:

Home Office reference: XXXXXXX

Name: Bleep

Address: XXXX

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Hmmm. The identity theft deal must have been done by the dudes at the agency where the guy submitted his passport for the non-appearance schengen visa.

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@ Paribus,

I remember I once demanded such rights to information like this from the UK embassy here in Amsterdam. Although it was a third case party slightly related to my case too, which as expected was declined.

However, I recollect once reading about the Freedom of Information bill for UK institutions even though I cannot remember it clearly again now. I think Londoncool and someone like Bumper who has some areas of knowledge on criminal law would be appropiate to thrash out this matter.

I would make contacts with Bumper to find out what she knows about this subject matter and what rights you have as a party who is involved with this case. Hope she comes online soon enough to speak on this matter as well.

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The person will probably have to make a SAB (subject access bureau) check with the Home Office.

I don't have the contact details to hand at the moment but give me a couple of days and I will provide

you with them.

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Newbie

What an experience!

I dont know much about Freedom of information act but i knew UK Data protection well well.

This can be dealt with in either of the following ways

1) Write a strong letter to the Visa Manager at BHC Lagos asking for more information about their outcome. From my own little experiece, they can help you by inviting the thief to come and pick his visa and hand him to the police.

2) If the person is you, i can vouch for you. Our very good friend in Londoncool could be of help here.

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