Two British grandparents have claimed they were each assaulted by a passport control officer as they passed through a Spanish airport after a family holiday.
Sarah Mensah said she was pushed up against a wall by the officer and her husband Frankie claims he was attacked by the same man while trying to defend his wife, also alleging that the officer went as far as reaching for his baton.
The couple were accompanying their son and his fiancée – as well as the younger couple’s three-year-old twins, one of whom has a disability – as the family made their way to catch a Ryanair flight from Alicante to Stansted on Tuesday morning.
Sarah, 55, a physical therapist, and Frankie, 43, a senior TV producer – from Frinton-on-Sea, Essex – are still at a loss as to why the officer raced out of his cabin and attacked Sarah at the gate, but are also angry at the attitude of Ryanair staff who watched the incident unfold and did nothing.
The events have left the couple shaken and wary of leaving their home, let alone travelling. “I won’t be going to Spain again,” Frankie said. “And I won’t be flying with Ryanair.”
Mr and Mrs Mensah eventually managed to board the plane and, on returning home, emailed Ryanair and Alicante airport to complain.
A reply from Ryanair referred them back to Alicante airport, saying that Ryanair “do not employ the passport control/custom officers” and an automatic response from Alicante airport supplied them with a form that the couple said had no appropriate sections for them to complete.
The incident started when the family were walking through a passport check at gate B29, in order to board the 7.05am Ryanair flight.
Mrs Mensah was the last of the family to pass through and the officer started shouting “Open, open, open” at her.
“I had my passport open on the page with the picture, as I always do, so I didn’t know why he was shouting that,” she said. “But he kept on repeating, ‘Open, open, open’”.
The officer stamped the passport but Mrs Mensah said “he then flew out of the cabin, got hold of me and started shouting in Spanish”.
Wondering why his wife was not behind him, Mr Mensah went back to the booth, at which point he witnessed the officer push his wife against a wall.
‘Pushing her in the chest’
In his complaint to Ryanair, he wrote that the officer “physically attacked my wife by pushing her in the chest, forcing her to be pushed into the wall whilst shouting in Spanish, pointing in her face and scaring our entire family”.
He said that he tried to stop the officer by standing in between him and his wife but added in his complaint that he “continued shouting at her through me and at myself in Spanish, and shoved me several times and made a move to draw his weapon”.
The officer then demanded each of the grandparents’ passports, even though he had stamped both.
Mr Mensah said he did not want to hand the passports over, as, given the officer’s previous behaviour, he did not know what the man would do with them.
“He was shouting at me in Spanish and I asked two Ryanair employees what he was saying and they told me that he was saying that if we did not consent to what he wanted he would arrest us.”
In his complaint to Ryanair, Mr Mensah wrote: “He kept pointing to his police badge and saying he is the law.”
In Spain, the Guardia Civil, which has powers of arrest, polices borders.
Mr Mensah added: “As a black man, I didn’t want to be arrested in a foreign country, so I agreed to let him have our passports.”
He wrote in his complaint to Ryanair: “We gave him our passports reluctantly as we feared if we didn’t we would be detained.”
“But also we’re not sure what he did with our information. I’m hoping that this will have been recorded on CCTV. Please check this for us.”
However, Ryanair’s response referred him back to the airport.
The officer eventually returned the passports to the couple. Mr Mensah said that the couple did not make a complaint at the time as they were afraid they would miss their flight.
But he added: “If this could happen to us, it could happen to anyone. The worst thing was how powerless we were. Even though Ryanair staff saw what was happening, they didn’t do anything.
‘We were in danger’
“The officer could do what he wanted and we were in danger of being detained in a foreign country, separated from our family.
“I would like an apology from Ryanair and from the airport. A passport control officer should not be behaving like that.”
Mr Mensah wrote in his complaint: “There is never an excuse for this kind of behaviour, especially when we are just a family returning to the UK from our week’s holiday.”
He told the Telegraph: “To my great shame, I actually apologised to the officer when it was all over, even though I had done nothing wrong, I just wanted the whole thing to be over and to protect my family.”
But he is still mystified as to what provoked the attack. “There is no logical explanation as to why this happened,’ he wrote in his complaint.
Ryanair and Alicante Airport were approached for comment.
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