N.S. Muslim woman alleges mistreatment after denied entry into U.S.

Society

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Published on January 7, 2010
Ayat Manna rests at her parents' home in Dartmouth, N.S., Wednesday. - Photo by The Canadian Press

A Muslim woman alleges she was mistreated by border officials at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport after she was denied entry to the United States.

Ayat Manna, who lives in Halifax, said she had a one-way ticket departing Monday for Cleveland, where she was planning to spend several months to visit her husband.

HALIFAX -

A Muslim woman alleges she was mistreated by border officials at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport after she was denied entry to the United States.

Ayat Manna, who lives in Halifax, said she had a one-way ticket departing Monday for Cleveland, where she was planning to spend several months to visit her husband.

But the 25-year-old was held for questioning - something she said made her believe she was targeted because she was wearing a head scarf and is a Muslim woman.

She said border officials questioned her for more than four hours about why she was visiting the U.S.

"It felt like I was in the movies in a place where you'd done something wrong," she said Wednesday.

"They started yelling at me and being rude ... I'm not allowed to go to the washroom, I'm not allowed to use the phone."

She said she was told to go home and was escorted from the building by the RCMP.

"I felt like I was a terrorist. Everybody was staring at me and it was the most embarrassing moment of my life."

But a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency denied many of her claims of poor treatment.

"This was a standard, everyday admissibility review we do on hundreds of travellers trying to enter the United States every day," Steven Sapp said from his office in Philadelphia.

Sapp said the border agents didn't yell and they were not rude to her.

He said the fact that Manna was wearing a scarf had nothing to do with her being held for questioning.

"We do not consider what a person's attire is as part of their admissibility review. It's strictly based on the person's purpose in coming to the United States."

He also denied she was questioned for more than four hours, saying she simply didn't meet the threshold for admissibility into the country.

"She presented herself as coming into the U.S. for one purpose. We determined that we believed it was for a different purpose and she has not been able to overcome our suspicion of why she was trying to enter the United States."

Originally from Jordan, Manna has lived in Canada for 15 years, where she studied commerce at Saint Mary's University.

Manna said she returned to U.S. Customs Tuesday with documents from her employer indicating she was intending to return to her job and also provided bank statements.

She said her plan had been to visit her husband and return home to her job and her parents. She said she expected her husband would begin making an application for her immigration to the United States later this year.