The day our lad became an illegal immigrant

We had to laugh at this: the UK Home Office threatening a 26-year-old British national who has never left the UK with deportation ‘as there are no records for how you entered the United Kingdom.’

It also reminded us of a very close shave we had at Otopeni Airport in 2002, when we took Son of Bucharest Life to the UK for the first time.

He was travelling on a British passport: we got him one the moment he could stay still long enough to get a photo taken. In those days Romania still imposed compulsory slavery (also known as military service) on its young boys and there was no way our lad was going into the Romanian army (in fact, there is no way he is ever going into any army); we wanted him to have the protection from such barbarism that a UK passport affords as soon as possible. (Soon afterwards, by the way, the whole thing became irrelevant as Romania sensibly did away with slavery).

Anyway, we turned up at Otopeni with Son of Bucharest Life and his shiny new UK passport (in those days issued in an hour or two, direct at the UK Embassy) only to be told that he could not leave Romania. The reason? There was no Romanian entry stamp in his UK passport, and therefore no proof that he had entered Romania legally: he was, in the eyes of the jobsworth at passport control, an illegal immigrant.

Panic ensued: it was two days before Christmas and we thought we were buggered. We hinted at vast rewards if the passport control officer could be a bit more, ahem, flexible, but were knocked back (trust us to get the only honest border guard in the country). As a last throw of the dice we asked him to go and get the officer in charge, who duly arrived, and asked if we had our son’s birth certificate. By some miracle, we did. It showed his place of birth as being Bucharest. A note was made in Son of Bucharest Life’s passport – we still have it – saying ‘+ cert de nastere roman‘ and the passport was stamped and we were allowed on the plane.

We found out soon afterwards that we got lucky. We know two families in exactly the same situation who – at around the same time – were not allowed past passport control: they had to get Romanian passports for their children in order to do so.


15 thoughts on “The day our lad became an illegal immigrant

  1. It was a genuine mistake the story highlighted and a letter was sent to the UK national in error, so nothing to see here.

    I do find it slightly ironic that you used your British nationality to get a family member out of Romanian national service (not blaming you for protecting your son by the way!) and yet your views that nation states should be abolished and borderless countries with erosion of national identity. I’ve also seen you write about how a British passport shouldn’t give you anymore entitlement than a Romanian or any other nationality before, so was surprised to see you openly state how you’ve used your British passport to do exactly what you’ve castigated before.

    I suppose such a stance will generate hypocrisy and essentially people will generally do what’s best for themselves.

    Just to be very clear I would have done the same, but I’m not the one who wants to abolish countries identities, have borderless countries and not a single control on the movement of people.


      1. Don’t get me wrong as I wrote it twice so to be clearer to all, and I’ll say once again I agree I’d have done the same as Craig – but my point is aimed at him as to his previous claims and the hypocrisy of his actions (although for a 4th time I agree with what he did)

        As for parties I’m a pretty decent laugh to be fair 😉


      2. I kind of get what you are saying but until the revolution we have to operate within the current global framework, and that means having passports!


      3. An honest and fair reply, can’t argue with that.

        Not so sure you’ll get your revolution anytime soon though 😉

        On a kinda similar note, I guess you’re keeping an eye on the next year or so of in/out referendum debates etx (of which I think the vote will be to stay in by a small margin) ….. It’s all going to be in the groundswell of opinion and whether or not Dodgy Dave can get the reforms or revisions on our membership or not ( I doubt he’ll get much change out of the EU’s pro Europe ‘leaders’) … So it’s interesting to see 60 or so of his own MP’s setting up a kind of anti EU group (unless) Dodgy Dave can get the reforms he claims he wants.

        Interesting times ahead and I know you’re as pro EU as you can get, but I’m personally hoping for some serious reforms as the dream to leave this political union sadly won’t happen.

        Although miracles do happen 🙂


  2. Wow, so much there that is familiar. After my lad was born I went and arranged a meeting with the military attaché at the Romanian embassy in London to enquire about the military service question. After telling me that Romania intended to move from a conscript army to a professional one, he went on to use the international language to make it clear that even if conscription were in force when my lad was of age, he and I could come to an arrangement that meant national service would not be a problem.

    And earlier this year we discovered that the same boy’s passport had expired two days before we flew to Bucharest. A lengthy and impassioned conversation with the good people at the consulate in London got him a one-flight-only ‘permis de calatorie’ to get him into Romania, and then the UK Embassy in Bucharest granted him a one-year emergency passport extension. Trouble was that when it was time to fly out the guy at the passport desk had never seen such a thing before and refused to let us pass. Eventually the head of security was called and after much agitaţie we were allowed to leave.


    1. We had real trouble getting the permis de calatorie, as despite having all sorts of documents, including British and Romanian birth certificates (the latter automatically giving him Romanian nationality), there was no formal notarised document establishing a legally binding link between the Good Lady Soţie and the lad himself. Somehow we managed to wriggle our way through it, using a long-expired Romanian passport of the GLS’s that he’d been added on as a babe-in-arms to make visa matters easier.

      The moral? Make sure yo’re passport’s up to date, and that you get *everything* notarised. The Romanians love stamps the way they hate draughts.


      1. When we were first married my wife and I had the idea of putting our names together (being a champion of women’s rights I am not keen on women habitually taking their husband’s name). As such, the ‘name after marriage’ on our marriage certificate is Turp-Balazs. For both of us. That is also the name on the kids’ birth certificates (not only their name, but the name of their mother and father). It has caused all sorts of bureaucratic nightmares (not with the British: they have never had a problem with the fact that on one document I am Turp-Balazs and others still just Turp: they are smart enough to know that it is the same person). The problem has been with the Romanian authorities, mainly linked to proving I am the father of my children. As such, earlier this year I gave up and when renewing my passport in London became a Turp-Balazs.


    2. I’ve met load of Rommy lads who enjoyed their brief time with national service. I’ve seen pictures of them getting up to all sorts. None of them disliked it. So stop wet nursing your son. Otherwise you’ll turn him into a raging iron!


      1. Most I know spent large amounts of money trying to get out of it. Most who ended up doing it were used as unpaid guards for embassies or for cleaning the streets, all amidst all sorts of awful physical abuse. Slavery, basically. A year of a young man’s life totally wasted.


      2. There is physical abuse to be found in all walks of life. It’s true about mollycoddled city slicker lads from Bucharest at the start of early 2000’s paying anything up to 500Dollars to get out of it. And that was a very large amount of money back then. One chap I knew who borrowed from his French boss took nigh on 3 years to pay it off. He only had to do a 12 month stint for gawds sakes! And he was so stressed about his debt he turned grey aged 23ish? He would have had a much better time dossing in a billet with 12 other strangers all mixing in together. I think they call that character building yes?
        And what is wrong with cleaning streets? I take part in organised litter picking days in Romania. What would you have the conscripts do… Invade Russia? And lastly, you mentioned slavery? The chaps I met never told me that they felt like a slave. In fact, a slave is anyone today who has to get up to go to work and pay tax to the elites, now that is real slavery my son!


      3. You (and I for that matter) take part in civic initiatives of our own accord: there is a difference between volunteering for something and being forced into something on threat of prison if you don’t. And I always had you down as a libertarian.


      4. I know lots of people who did national service and lots that paid to get out of it. I prefer the people who had to do it but only because I can’t stand privileged little shits. Having said that the ones that did it all reported malnutrition, physical abuse and general horror so I know I would pay for my son to get out of it if I had to.


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