Ex-refugees made to feel they are 'not British' as they 'jump through hoops' to renew passports

Exclusive: They have lived in Britain for decades since leaving Aden but suddenly face hurdle after hurdle


Jewish refugees from Aden who have lived in Britain for decades have spoken of having to “jump through hoops” they have never previously encountered when applying to renew their passports, and being made to feel they are “not British citizens” .

One of those who fled the former British protectorate, which is now Yemen, said he had “been made to wait months and asked to produce documents never needed before”.

Nearly the entire Jewish population fled Aden between June 1947 and September 1967, mostly heading to Israel and Britain.

During the 1967 Six-Day War, those who remained had to be secretly airlifted out by the Royal Air Force in the middle of the night and were brought to the UK. Those who came were issued with British Overseas Passports.

Rami Kanzen was among the Jews who came to the UK in 1960 and applied to renew his passport using the express channel last month. Mr Kanzen, once given an appointment at the passport office, was told it would take a few hours and that he could come back to collect his passport the following day.

But after a delay over an issue with the first photo he provided, he encountered another setback when officials asked him to return and present copies of his older expired passports.

“I provided some five expired passports, all showing me to be a UK citizen even though I have never had to do that before,” he said.

But that did not appear to be enough for passport officials and they asked him to present his birth certificate, then his parent’s birth certificates and wedding certificate.

“It was ridiculous,” he said. “That took weeks to find them. I have never been asked to produce this kind of documentation before and my father was born in 1896 — where was I going to find these things?

“They also asked me to get a letter from my employer verifying who I am — but I am my own employer. I said ‘are you serious? You want me to write a letter from myself saying I am me?’ Nothing satisfied them.”

It was only when he found a letter from the Passport Office from 1982, which informed him he was a British Citizen, that their demands stopped.

Mr Kanzen said: “I couldn’t travel and it was a month after that before I was issued with a new passport.”

Simon Toby, who lives in Tottenham north London, has reported a similar problem.

Mr Tobi, who was born in Aden in 1950 and emigrated to Britain on a passenger ship in 1960. He got his first British passport in the 1960s.

However when his brother applied for a passport for his British-Israeli daughter, officials demanded to see his mother’s birth certificate.

“Then they wanted my brother’s birth certificate but we only had a copy. They said we had to have the original. I told them there is civil war in Aden, nothing is functioning there — how I meant to get that?”

Mr Tobi had to find a solicitor in Aden and pay him to visit the interior and foreign ministry to get them to stamp his brother’s birth certificate as an official document.

He said: “It cost me hundreds of pounds. The solicitor got asked, ‘why are you helping a Jew?’ because they could see our family name was Jewish.”

Despite finally getting hold of the documents, the Tobi family gave up with the application process because they were worried about “what more we would be asked for that we can’t get”.

In a third case, the son of Yemeni Jews, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was issued a passport which was later cancelled with “no good reason given”, he said.

Mr Kanzen said he knew of other Adeni Jews who have had similar problems.

A Home Office spokesman told the JC: “HM Passport Office needs to be satisfied of a person’s nationality, identity, and entitlement when issuing passports, and will request supporting documents to support this assessment.

“Documentary requirements, and any changes around those requirements, are based on a current assessment of a risk of fraud and are not restricted to a single type of British nationality.

"We reserve the right to ask for additional documents should they be required.”

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