As you may know, I was recently deported from Latvia, on March 16th/17th.
On March 19th, I raised this matter with the UK’s FCO (Supporting British nationals around the world through modern and efficient consular services.), subject line – Formal Complaint against Latvia – here are the emails –
I was deported from Latvia on the night of March 16th, 17th, and banned for 3 years.
This is absolutely disgraceful, a complete breach of EU law –
– I had not committed, or been found guilty of any crime
– I was given no representation, nor any opportunity for representation
– The Latvian authorities were heavy-handed, and have attacked my
reputation via the media
I would like to make a complaint in the strongest terms, and pursue a claim for damages against the Latvian authorities.
Please take this up as a matter of urgency.
On March 24th, I heard back –
Dear Mr Phillips,
Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear about the difficulties you encountered during your recent visit to Latvia. I hope this email finds you safe and well.
I can appreciate that you will have found the decision to deport you from Latvia frustrating but I should explain that the embassy is unable to intervene on your behalf in this matter. This is not out of any lack of interest or concern but because the decision on such matters lies with the Latvian government acting in its capacity as a sovereign state.
The Latvian government has established procedures for anyone who is unhappy with the decision taken to deport them. These should be set out in the information pack you will have received on your deportation. You may also find it helpful to discuss your options with a lawyer who is able to advise you on local law so that you can consider taking action through legal channels including for your claim for damages. I attach to this email a list of English speaking lawyers who may be able to assist you.
You mentioned in your email that you were denied access to representation and that the Latvian authorities were heavy handed. In order for us to determine how we may be able to assist you with these complaints, it would help us greatly if you could provide us with further details. In particular:
Do you mean you were denied access to a lawyer? If so, could you please provide further details about the circumstances including when you made this request, how many times, to whom and the response you received?
Can you please explain further what you mean by “heavy-handed” and the circumstances in which the behaviour you are complaining about arose?
I look forward to receiving your reply to these questions.
Deputy Head of Mission
British Embassy Riga
They ‘helpfully’ enclosed a list of lawyers, and as for the questions, I’ve been down this road before with the FCO, you answer the questions, it all leads to absolutely nothing.
I had a more pertinent question for them – this email to them from March 28th –
Before I answer your questions, Richard.
Can you explain to me why, when in Ukraine last year, BBC journalists were banned from Ukraine, and the FCO immediately intervened, UK ambassador to Ukraine Judith Gough going personally to visit president Poroshenko – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34282136 – yet when I, a working journalist, but not for the BBC, get deported from Latvia – even an EU country, you tell me you can’t do anything about it?
Surely it should be one rule for all? The FCO either can get involved in the matters of a ‘sovereign state’, or it can’t. So, why did the FCO get involved in a similar matter in Ukraine, not even in the EU, but did nothing at all to help me in Latvia?
I’m still waiting to hear back from them, over a week later. That’s the UK’s FCO, they are there to help you if you get in trouble abroad*. *If you work for the BBC.