DURA LEX, SED LEX – IT IS HARSH, BUT IT IS THE LAW
This book recounts a period in the life of Themis, a young Brazilian woman from Rio de Janeiro, who loves the sea, the sun, and the beach. However, when certain unexpected events create a devastating impact on her life, she decides to leave her world behind, exchanging the blue skies and the glittering beaches of Rio for the grey, mysterious gloom of London. She shares with us her journey as an immigrant in the United Kingdom and her progression from a supermarket checkout operator to a British civil servant, starting out as an assistant in the Tax Administration Department and rising to the rank of an immigration officer, working for Immigration and Border Control at one of London’s airports, one of the busiest in the world.
Between flashbacks that tell us more about her early life, the adversities she has faced, and the joy and pain of starting a new life in a new country, Themis takes us behind the scenes of the renowned British immigration system. Her light-hearted, entertaining, and, at times, dramatic narrative makes us laugh one minute and reflect on people’s characters the next. Her stories also encourage us to think more deeply about the human aspects of her work – the personal conflicts and ethical dilemmas she encounters while executing her challenging, yet essential job.
It does not take long for Themis to realise that her new job as an immigration officer will involve a lot more than just checking documents at passport control: She has to go through a strict training procedure and, in a very short span of time, hone her powers of discretion. Her work naturally requires her to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the British immigration regulations, besides demanding a high degree of professionalism and a knowledge of the law. And all of this must be balanced with a certain amount of empathy – after all, the immigrant Themis once passed through passport control herself.
We see Themis struggle to reconcile these apparent contradictions in her new life: She is now an immigrant policing immigrants; she understands that her job is to uphold the law, but, at the same time, she cannot help but feel compassion for her fellow immigrants. She feels sad witnessing dreams of a better life shatter into pieces; she is thoroughly disappointed by the extent to which humans are prepared to lie and deceive. Above all, however, she becomes wiser, even if this wisdom comes at the cost of the dismantling of her youthful illusion as her eyes are opened to the very best – and, at times, the very worst – of human nature.
Weaving together intriguing storylines based upon the author’s real-life experience, Themis takes us behind the screens that separate us from the inner workings of the airport. She gives us a glimpse into areas that usually remain inaccessible to the general public, such as the ‘watch house’, the ‘pan’, and the ‘holding room’. The reader experiences an insider’s view of how the service operates – what happens when a passenger is stopped by immigration and left to ‘simmer’, the common tricks used to try and hoodwink immigration officials, and the procedures adopted to refuse entry to those who do not fulfil the strict criteria for admission and residence in the United Kingdom.
An organised country needs rules for its citizens to enjoy a decent and dignified quality of life. The economy must be protected, and populations must be planned. It is precisely for the purpose of ensuring this order that immigration officers exist. They act as gatekeepers, and often find themselves in challenging situations. They need to draw upon their experience and gut feeling when scrutinising a case at hand, often needing to ask personal, occasionally embarrassing, questions. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Repton Park, Essex, IG8 8GP
Passport, please is a book of stories that recounts the adventures of Themis, a Brazilian beach lover turned United Kingdom immigration officer, who draws back the curtain on the British immigration service to present her unique view on its inner workings and behind-the-scenes activity, providing an entertaining and humorous account of life on the frontline of airport arrivals, together with insights into some aspects of Brazilian culture. Become a passenger on this journey, as you learn some of the ins-and-outs of immigration work at the UK’s largest airport. Learn of Themis’ life before donning the uniform, the cultural differences between Brazil and the UK, and how she takes them all in her stride. How does a young woman singlehandedly rebuild her life in a new country? Be part of the emotional rollercoaster, as her mentor opens the young Brazilian woman’s eyes to the ‘system’. And who is the handsome young police officer she meets at the roadside?