South West Wales

Juhel Miah: 'I was blocked from US due to my name'

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Media captionJuhel Miah says the only differences between him and others in his party were his name, his religion and the colour of his skin

A British Muslim teacher denied entry to the United States during a school trip has told an anti-racism rally it was due to his colour, religion and name.

Juhel Miah, 25, was with a Llangatwg Community School group when he was escorted off a connecting flight from Iceland to New York.

He told a Stand Up to Racism rally in Cardiff he was unfairly made to feel like a "threat".

Hundreds turned out for the event.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and Labour MP Jo Stevens were among those who attended, alongside scores of supporters from several supporting organisations waving placards.

'The problems started'

Mr Miah - whose full name is Mohammed Juhel Miah - had flown to Reykjavik with the Neath school group of 39 pupils and four teachers before boarding an onward flight to New York.

But before the plane took off on 16 February, he was removed.

He told the rally his problems began the moment he met an American official before boarding the flight.

"She read my first name was Mohammed and from that point onwards the problems started", he added.

The maths teacher said he was allowed onboard, but was then approached by another US official, who told him he had been denied access to America.

Image caption Juhel Miah met Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood at the anti-racism event

He said: "When I was going back to get my hand luggage, as you can imagine, everyone was staring at me and they were looking at me like I was threat - as if I'd done something wrong.

"I had all the same documents as all the other teachers and all the other pupils. The only difference between them and me was, possibly, the colour of my skin, I was a Muslim and my name was Mohammed Juhel Miah."

At the time entry to the US was subject to restrictions on people from, or who had travelled to, seven Muslim-majority countries included in an executive order signed by US President Donald Trump.

That order - issued in late January - sparked confusion and protests, before being blocked by a judge in Seattle.

A second, similar executive order issued by the president was blocked by federal judges on Thursday.

Mr Miah said he received a letter from the US Embassy since the unsuccessful journey.

It claimed he had never been refused entry to the US and was free to apply for a visa for future travel, but he said he had clearly been barred despite having a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa at the time.

Mr Miah's case was raised in parliament by House of Commons leader David Lidington.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood was among the hundreds who turned out for the march and rally, which started at Grange Gardens at 11:00 GMT on Saturday.

Labour's Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens, who also spoke at the rally, said recent political events had exposed an "underbelly of racism" across the UK.

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