My second interview with UK immigration, what they call a follow-up interview, was in July. They asked me a lot of questions. The first 20 were to verify if I was Syrian or not.
I found it very funny. They did ask some good questions, but a lot of them were not related to my case. Anyone who wanted to pretend to be Syrian could have found this information on the internet.
They asked me what countries were near Syria. I looked at the case worker and said: “I know this may seem like I’m trying to avoid this question, but are you serious?” She said: “OK, can you PLEASE just answer the question?”
Then she asked some questions which were a bit more helpful. She asked me about road names. Not many people would know specific road names in Damascus.
I knew it was reasonable. They do need to know I am who I say I am. I wouldn’t want other people to act as if they were Syrian, come to this country and then do something bad.
Still, it felt like someone was trying to prove that I wasn’t Syrian, to rip my identity from me.
If I were asking the questions, I wouldn’t ask about which countries are next to Syria. That’s easy. But there are things you wouldn’t be able to find on the internet.
I would ask about food. I would ask the person I was interviewing: “How many times a week do you eat shawarma, and how many times do you eat falafel?” The correct answer would be, of course, that there can’t be a week where you don’t eat shawarma or falafel. It’s in our blood.
I would ask: “What are the most famous card games? How much is a Damascus bus ticket? What flavours of shisha have Syrians created?”
For example, the old people in Syria smoke specific type of shisha called timbak. They smoke it in the coffee houses, but the young people don’t like it because it’s too strong. They would like double apple instead.
I can almost guarantee that Syrians created that flavour. OK, I don’t have any proof… but I know. For sure.
Shisha image: David Kotal via Creative Commons
Questions image: Rain Rannu
It is an interesting idea…what questions to ask somone to find out which country they really come from. IS it the case that uneducated country people would be able to name all the neighbouring countries? In any case the questions were designed to flush out people who are NOT Syrian…and I am not confident that I could pass that test!