The passport confiscated from a Syrian journalist by the UK border agency has not been passed on to the Syrian authorities. Nor will it be returned to them in future.
Zaina Erhaim’s passport was taken from her when she arrived in Britain on 22 September. It has since been retained by a Home Office department.
Erhaim, a noted critic of the Syrian regime run by Bashar al-Assad, was told that the confiscation followed a claim by the Syrian government that it had been stolen.
Border agency officials told her they were complying with a request from Syriaand she should take the matter up with Syrian consular officials.
But a Home Office spokesman said: “The British government has no direct contact with the Assad regime due to the atrocities it has committed against the Syrian people.”
He explained that the department’s “first priority is the security of our borders and it would be irresponsible to ignore warnings about lost or stolen passports.”
Erhaim has a second, valid passport with a UK visa, but without sufficient space to enable her to travel outside of the European Union.
She will therefore be permitted to leave and return the UK. But it may make travel to Turkey, where she is based, difficult and, possibly, hazardous.
It is unclear yet whether the Home Office will relent and give her back the confiscated passport.
In a blog item earlier today, I criticised the Home Office’s press office for its tardy response to questions about Erhaim’s passport.