Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- Before the US authorities announced that travelers from 14 countries, including Saudi Arabia, will be subject to enhanced security screening prior to boarding their flights, a Saudi student traveling to America to resume his studies at a higher education institute in Chicago was detained in Amsterdam airport for two days. The student was searched and questioned several times; his travel documents and personal belongings were taken from him, before he was eventually returned to Saudi Arabia.
The Dutch security authorities decided to send the Saudi student back to his country of origin saying that his travel documents were illegitimate; however his entry visa to the US is valid until March 2011, while his passport is valid until 2013.
Mohamed al-Shayeb, a PhD student in computer science, informed Asharq Al-Awsat about the treatment that he received in the Amsterdam airport. Al-Shayeb says that he was detained in a prisoner close to the airport for a period of time, and was only released after the Saudi embassy intervened. Al-Shayeb told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was also searched and questioned a number of times.
Al-Shayeb traveled from King Fahd Airport in Dammam to Chicago, with a stopover in Amsterdam, on a Dutch airline. Al-Shayeb said that the layover in Amsterdam was only 4 hours, during which no Dutch authorities asked to see his travel documents.
Al-Shayeb told Asharq Al-Awsat “I stood in line to board the flight that I was taking to Chicago when a person appeared and introduced himself as a representative of the US authorities, he told me that my entry visa had expired, despite the fact that the documents in my possession proves that my visa is valid until March 2011.”
Al-Shayeb says that he was asked a number of questions by the US representative, such as who had paid for his ticket.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat “the investigator asked me about where I was traveling from, and the reason I was traveling to the US, as well as who was paying for the ticket and my studies, and how many credit cards I have.”
He added “These questions were asked at every session after that, and I answered that I was sponsored by my country’s government to study in the US, and that the tickets were provided to me by the [Saudi] Department of Scholarship [of the Ministry of Higher Education] however despite this they were skeptical of what I was saying.”
Al-Shayeb, who is a resident of the al-Qatif governorate in Saudi Arabia, told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was then taken to the Dutch Department of Immigration where he was searched once more and held for almost six hours during which his travel documents, luggage, and personal documents were checked. Following this, he was transferred to a nearly prison by Dutch security in a private car where he was questioned for a third time.
Al-Shayeb said that he was searched once again in prison, and his luggage and personal belongings were inspected, along with his travel documents. He was detained in solitary confinement for more than one hour, and was later transferred to a shared cell. Al-Shayeb was given the opportunity to contact his family but chose instead to call the Saudi Arabian embassy in Holland and inform them of his situation.
Al-Shayeb said that following intervention from the Saudi embassy, he was transferred the next day back to the airport and sent back to Saudi Arabia. Al-Shayeb said that prior to this flight, Dutch security confiscated all of his belongings, including his keys and a pen, they x-rayed him, and that he was escorted to his seat in the airplane by security officers. He said that his luggage and personal belongings were only returned to him once this place had entered Saudi Arabian airspace.