There was one more thing about the trip that confused me: London Heathrow has long been an absolute nightmare for security, especially the dismal Terminal 3. It’s had some work done and the facelift has made it less dreary but the idea of flying out through it, with its long queues and jobsworth security team, fills me with dread. I get there expecting trouble. What has happened? For the first time in years, the queue for the scanners moved freely, there was no demand for the removal of shoes and boots, staff were efficient and friendly. It was a revelation and a very pleasant one at that.
I came through security and straight out into the shopping area. Here’s why I am confused: the UK is making a lot of fuss about (mainly) young people travelling to various parts of the Middle East, especially Syria, where they join so-called Jihadist groups. It is said that they wish to prevent such travel. Yet at no point did I have to present my passport to immigration. Visible security is a significant deterrent. I don’t want more queues and delays, but I do want to know that the identity of the person next to me has been verified by an immigration officer. It’s not only UK citizens that don’t go through a formal passport check – it’s everyone. How, then, do non-EU citizens get cancellation stamps on their passports, a stamp that, in absence, may confuse immigration officers in other countries?