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U.K. man’s family reunion cut short after problems at the border

James Birkbeck (accompanied by his cousin on the left) getting ready to head back to the U.K. Wednesday afternoon.
James Birkbeck (accompanied by his cousin on the left) getting ready to head back to the U.K. Wednesday afternoon. Global News

EDMONTON – Border Services officials are sending a U.K. man back to Europe, just 48 hours after he flew into Edmonton. James Birkbeck says he came to Canada on vacation, to visit a cousin he found on Facebook eight months ago.

Eager to meet, the Edmonton cousin – who shares the same name – bought his British relative a one-way ticket to Edmonton.

But the trip didn’t get off to a great start. After he landed at the Edmonton International Airport, Birkbeck says he was detained by Border Services officers for almost four hours.

“They were just questioning me and, basically didn’t believe I was here for the right reasons…a family visit; obviously thought I’d just come to [be here] illegally and work here.”

He claims the officials came to that conclusion because of his one-way ticket, and after misinterpreting an entry in his diary about new beginnings.

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His passport was confiscated and he was given 48 hours in Edmonton.

“Hearing that he was going home…I was kind of devastated,” said his cousin. He added that border officials also made him feel as if he were aiding and abetting a criminal.

“I could definitely see how James would not feel welcome in my country now…I was all ready to show James the city I live in.”

The Canada Border Services Agency had the following to say about the case:

“A person is not refused entry into Canada simply because they do not have a return ticket.” Having a return ticket is recommended, however.

“Admissibility of all travelers is decided on a case-by-case basis and based on the information made available at the time of entry.

To enter Canada, some of the requirements that visitors must meet are:

  • answer all questions truthfully
  • be a genuine visitor
  • have enough funds to support themselves for the duration of their stay and effect their departure
  • must respect Canadian laws, and be free of having a criminal record
  • if they will be seeking work in Canada they must be legally entitled to do so
  • if they are seeking to live in Canada, they are proper procedures that must be followed

When Mr. Birkbeck sought entry into Canada, he was unable to satisfy CBSA officers that he was a genuine visitor to Canada. During his secondary examination, CBSA officers found evidence to suggest Mr. Birkbeck was going to start a new life in Canada. He was also unemployed and had no strong ties to the UK. Based on those factors, in addition to the fact he had no return travel planned, no funds with him and no funds to support his stay, these were all key considerations in assessing his admissibility. Mr. Birkbeck confirmed he understood the reasons why he was inadmissible, and he was allowed to withdraw his application to enter Canada.”

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Birkbeck hopes to come back to Canada this summer. As for his cousin, he’s out $560, which was what the one-way ticket cost him.

“A lot of money for me. The money isn’t the issue, it’s the principle of the whole thing ‘cause I wanted to see James. I have no family here in Edmonton.”

His cousin flew back home Wednesday afternoon. He says the experience taught him a hard lesson, and hopes others will learn from his mistake.

“Look at the immigration first,” he advised, “and clearly read it through.”

With files from Julie Matthews, Global News