By Tony Attwood
I know this story has suddenly started to appear everywhere, and since this is Untold I wouldn’t normally run such a piece, but it really does raise an interesting question: how far are the newly emboldened British border agencies and their chums in the Home Office going to go to keep our borders sacrosanct?
Paris Saint Germain defender Serge Aurier has been refused permission by British immigration authorities to travel into the UK for tomorrow’s Champions League match against Arsenal.
Aurier is 23 years old, and an Ivory Coast citizen, and indeed an Ivorian international. The reason for declining his entry visa is that he received a conviction for assault two months ago for acting with violence against a police officer outside a night club.
PSG have issued a statement which said: “Due to a sudden about-face by the British authorities, Serge Aurier has not been allowed to travel with Unai Emery’s squad for the clash away to Arsenal. Paris Saint-Germain is stunned by this incomprehensible situation that attacks the very integrity of the UEFA Champions League.”
PSG however have put forward to interesting issues. One is that they say that British immigration gave Aurier a visa and then revoked on 16 November. The other is that PSG informed British Border Control that Aurier had appealed his conviction as so should be let in until the appeal is heard.
“The club has argued several times that since the player has launched a legal appeal against the criminal ruling, he is therefore entitled to the presumption of innocence, as any other person exercising their right to appeal.
“Paris Saint-Germain strongly regrets that the presumption of innocence has not influenced Britain’s decision.”
Worse from PSG’s point of view is the fact that PSG was only informed of the decision at 2pm on Tuesday of the rejection of the application, “despite the club working for the last six days to find a solution to enable our player to travel with his teammates to London.
“After an initial application on October 18, complete with all the necessary documents, the British authorities had originally granted Paris Saint-Germain’s Côte d’Ivoire international an entry visa to the UK on October 21.
“However, on November 16, his visa was finally revoked by the British Ministry of the Interior, [The Home Office] who justified their about-face by citing Aurier’s conviction on September 30, 2016.”
It is of course within the remit of the Home Office to refuse anyone an entry permit for any reason that it feels like citing, but in a democratic society this right is supposed to be used with discretion. Although the crime of hurting a police officer might well be one that would lead to a refusal of entry, normally the fact that it is under appeal, combined with the fact that undoubtedly PSG would have given a guarantee of his behaviour while in the UK, and even posted a surety on his behalf, would be enough.
Indeed although the two month prison sentence has been given along with a fine of 600 euros, the player was given a ‘convertible’ sentence which would allow him to undertake community service rather than undertake a prison sentence.
The officials from PSG added,
“Paris Saint-Germain had, in all transparency, informed the British authorities of this conviction, as well as Aurier’s appeal against this decision from the outset.
“The club has argued several times that the player has launched a legal appeal against the criminal ruling… On several occasions, Uefa has also transmitted its total support of Paris Saint-Germain to the British authorities regarding this case, in order to preserve the integrity of its competitions….
“In the face of this decision, albeit difficult to understand in respect to European law, Paris Saint-Germain, who had planned to travel to London with its strongest possible squad, invites its fans to be more united than ever, in support of their club.”
Aurier of course is not a citizen of the EU and thus the UK authorities regard him in relation to his citizenship as a non-EU national, with whom they can deal as they like. And, it seems, they like to ban him from entry.
So we then face the issue of Donald Trump, a man accused of numerous offences. He probably won’t want to come here, but if he did, would we let him in? Probably. He’s white. And he has nuclear bombs.
From the Arsenal History Society
“Making the Arsenal” and “Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed history” are available both via Kindle and in paperback. For the Kindle editions please go straight to the Kindle shop, for paperback editions and more information about the books please click here.
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