We hear stories of discrimination in the news, but we don’t really know the hurt until it hits close to home. We always encourage our readers to let go of stereotypes because it is extremely dangerous, and mostly hurtful. A BellaNaija reader who has asked to be referred to as ‘FOB’ went through an excruciating, and humiliating experience at the Geneva Airport. We hope that she finds justice soon. We also hope that more people will speak out against injustice. We hope that more people will push back and fight for what they deserve. We need to work together to build a better world for us, and our children.
BN thanks FOB for having the courage to tell her story.
I arrived Geneva from London at about 11:00am on British Airways Flight No. 726 on August 9th to pick my kids who had been in camp in Switzerland for 3 weeks from the airport.
After going through immigration with no issues, I was walking through the nothing to declare section when I was called aside by a gentleman for questioning. At this point, he didn’t introduce himself as a customs official.
He asked to search my bag which I handed over to him with my passport and at this point the first question he asked me was “where did you get your bag from? The streets?”. The question completely shocked me as I felt it was a very derogatory and personal question to be asked considering he didn’t find any drugs on me.
I responded by asking him why would I buy my bag from the streets and asked what the relevance of where I bought my bag from was. I also stated to him that I bought my bag from a Chanel shop in Dubai in December 2013 while on holiday and also informed him that my certificate was in the bag as proof of authenticity.
At this point, he asked me to empty out the content of my bag onto the table and he was taking the bag in. This was a very humiliating and demoralizing situation and experience for me. All my personal effects on the table like I was a criminal!
He took the bag in to the office and came back after 10minutes and told me categorically, that ” for them, as far as they are concerned my bag was a fake and they were seizing it”.
I asked him if he called Chanel to confirm the number on the certificate to them and he said he doesn’t have to because he knows the bag is a fake! At this point, I noticed another black lady was stopped and called aside on the same issue!
I then asked him why it was only 2 black women who were stopped out of all the 100s of travelers that arrived that morning and I told him he was been racist and why it was only our bags that were seized. To which he responded he can stop whoever he wants. For the whole 50minutes I was kept back with customs which delayed my pick up time for my children, not one single Caucasian was stopped and questioned! I stated to him again that this is exactly the case that happened to Oprah Winfrey when she came to Switzerland.
I asked him if it was because I am black that I wont be able to afford a Chanel bag. I further asked to speak with his supervisor. When the supervisor came out, I told him that I have my statement of account on my email which further proves my bag was bought from the shop. The supervisor was willing to consider this but the custom official who had been questioning me said “he doesn’t care about the invoice and he is not interested in seeing the invoice because as far as he is concerned, the bag is a fake”.
This last point further proved to me that he was definitely been racist towards as the statement of account would have been concrete proof to support my initial position.
Even when I kept telling him that my children were waiting for me at the airport and I was meant to pick them up at 11:30am, he didn’t show any sign of empathy! At this point, I was and I am completely traumatized as I have never experienced racism on such a blatant level.
When I realized that my children would be worried and concerned about not been picked up, I asked him for proof of documentation which would show that my bag was in their possession so I could pick my kids and not miss my flight back to London. It was only at that point that he mentioned that a form would be given to me and the bag would be sent to Chanel for authentication and then sent back to me.
I asked for a complaint form which he didn’t give me. I found it strange that what he gave me was a postal address to write a letter to.
I also asked for his name and again he refused to give his name. As a government official carrying out what should be due process, I was shocked that he refused to give his name.
By the time I was done with them and rushed off to pick my kids, I was in tears at been treated so shabbily just because I am black! My kids saw me in tears and when I told them what happened they were in tears and shock.
I intend to not only sue, but also share my experience via all available media options open as this is a very unjust and unfair treatment of black people.
I have been unable to have a restful night rest since Friday 8th as I keep replaying the event in my mind. I would not have expected such treatment from a country that I thought was enlightened in this century.
This situation is completely WRONG and I would be most grateful if this article could be shared to the millions of your fans all over the world as it is important that we call out this sort of situation.
At this point, I would like to remain anonymous but if this would give the article credibility, I would rather use my initials FOB as we are in discussions with a lawyer already.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Christine Langer-püschel