TO THE HEAD OF THE IMMIGRATION SERVICES, MOZAMBIQUE: Human rights violation at your airport services in Maputo

Dear Sir/Madam,
I wish to denounce the human rights violation that my colleague and I have suffered from your airport services in Maputo.
Robbie Hurloll and myself Stephan Gua, are Mauritian citizens holding Mauritian passports who traveled to Mozambique from the 26th to the 30th of June. On Friday 30th of June, at 7:30 am, day of our departure from the Maputo International Airport to South Africa, we have been subjected to severe humiliation and ill treatment. We consider these malpractices as serious human rights abuses and are inviting you to enquire on officers who conducted such abuses.
Having reached the passport and immigration counter at the Maputo International Airport, Robbie and I were surprised that the female officer was asking for our fingerprints. Upon our inquiry on why we should give such information since our respective passports do not hold biometric data that shall allow authentication, we were told that it was for the sake of constituting a database that shall ease our next visit to Mozambique. Considering this as violation of our right to privacy under international laws, we politely refused to surrender our fingerprints that are biometric data falling under our privacy. Upon such refusal, the immigration officer exchanged some words in Portuguese to her colleague on her left and confiscated our passports. She was unable to explain to us, after we’ve asked her several times, why she was preventing us from going back to our country. At some point she was exchanging with her colleague what we perceived as jokes on our behalf and made it clear that we were not leaving Mozambique until we’ve given our fingerprints. We asked to see a superior officer to plead our position, but the rude lady turned a deaf ear to us. Meanwhile, time was running out and other passengers were passing through.
After some 15 minutes, my colleague Robbie decided to give up in the face of such stubborn attitude and ceded his fingerprints. At that point, the female officer passed my passport to another colleague, who was an older lady, without notifying me. It is only when I insisted on meeting a superior officer that she told me to deal with her colleague. I had to explain to her colleague all over about my refusal to surrender my fingerprints, but the latter showed absolutely no interest in what human rights are. At one point she took my hand and was sarcastically forcing it to the fingerprint reader and told me that if I wanted to get back home, I needed to abide. There have been a lot of travellers who stopped by; some mocking and some showing empathy until there were only a few people around left. One thing I can attest though is that not every passenger was asked for fingerprints. It was at that time that a young officer came from inside the airport and told me that he was here on behalf of the South African Airways and that the plane was waiting for me. He asked me if I was refusing to take the flight, to which I disagreed by replying that the immigration officer was detaining me by withholding my passport and preventing me from taking the plane. After several minutes, came another colleague of his, they discussed a while and I understood that the plane was to leave.

Realizing that the immigration officers were unreceptive to any human rights argument; that I was in an unsecured zone which was denying me the right to expose my arguments vis-à-vis a superior officer; that my sequestration could take another dimension if ever I was to stay beyond my flight, I decided to give up and surrender my fingerprints.

By writing this letter to you, I wish to point out that I’ve travelled a lot and I have been to Mozambique before and never have I been subjected to such humiliation that put disgrace on your services at any point. Officers at the immigration counter should realize that they are the last impression that are left on travellers and acting so rudely and in total disdain of others humanity do not elevate at any point your country. I can guarantee you that as from now I will be speaking about your immigration services as absolute crap and disrespectful of human dignity. I am really saddened by what happened on the 30th of June at the Maputo airport, this is at no point the Africa our forefathers dreamed for during the liberation processes. The Africa that beholds the idea that our people are one and that we shall consider our pairs as brothers and sisters.

This incident for your information constitutes violation under several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights namely under article 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 13 and 19. They also constitute violation under The African Charter On Human And Peoples' Rights to which Mozambique has signed and ratified, namely the article 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12 and 19. Moreover, I wish to draw your attention to the fact that on 18th April 2013 the European Convention of Human Rights ruled against France by recognizing the retention of fingerprints as violation to the right to respect for private and family life.

Based on the above I am requesting for Mr Robbie Hurloll and myself to receive:
1)      Official written apologies for humiliation to which we have been subjected
2)      A written guarantee that all our biometric data have been erased from your system and
3)      That no citizens to be subjected to any ill treatment upon refusal to give their fingerprints to your services.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Copy to: Ministry of Foreign affairs of Mozambique | National Human Rights Commission of Mozambique | Executive Secretary of the SADC | UNHRC | Human Rights Commission of Mauritius | Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mauritius | High Commissioner of Mauritius in Mozambique | Mauritian media

25th July 2017, Mauritius