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Bromley teenager takes on the Home Office over passports

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 December 2013

Katie Percival (left) has launched a campaign to get both parents' names onto passports. Pictured with her sister Ella.

Katie Percival (left) has launched a campaign to get both parents' names onto passports. Pictured with her sister Ella.

Archant

A dream trip to the USA turned into a frightening ordeal for one 13-year-old girl when an immigration official questioned her about who her mother really was.

Go for It! Be the Change

Girl Guides can earn badges based on the Go for It! programme, which teaches them about making changes in their communities. Girls learn about how the country is run, who their MP is and how their MP can help them. They also find out about how to run a campaign and how to be a successful leader. It also encourages them to think of powerful women in different fields - such as Angelina Jolie in film, J K Rowling in literature or historical figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst and to consider their characteristics. For more information, visit www.girlguiding.org.uk.

Katie Percival was with her 12-year-old sister Ella and mum Vicky Turner, 44, on a trip to a family wedding.

Because Vicky changed her surname after getting divorced, the border agency thought that the girls may be being trafficked.

Now Katie, supported by her mum, is on a mission to get the rules changed so that both parents’ names are on children’s passports to stop this happening again.

Katie, of Godwin Road, Bromley, said: “I was at JFK Airport with my family, ready for the holiday of a lifetime.

“The immigration officer looked at my mum’s passport, then my sister’s. He looked up and said: ‘You have different surnames, where is the father?’”

It was then that mum Vicky produced her divorce papers, the girls’ birth certificates and her previous passport with the same surname on, as well as a proof of marriage document.

Katie said: “He refused all of the documents saying that if we were entering the USA we would need a written letter from our dad giving permission for my mum to take us abroad. He even threatened to send us home.

“I was staggered. After what seemed like hours, we were allowed through, but this marred the start of our holiday and was not something I will forget.”

This was not the first time that the family had been questioned about their travel arrangements. They were stopped at Gatwick Airport and Folkestone port.

At the end of October, Katie, together with the 1st Chislehurst Guides, went to a Girl Guide event where she heard stories of other girls who had worked to change things they were unhappy about. She said: “I attended the launch and was, in a word, inspired. I heard stories of young women taking the initiative and standing up for what they feel passionate about. With the help of my Guide leader and my mum I started a petition.”

So far the petition has more than 150 signatures and has encouraged numerous comments from other parents who have had similar issues.

Vicky said: “I’ve now been stopped four times by immigration officers. The girls found it all very frightening because they thought that they were doing something wrong, especially as these are people in authority. They find it quite upsetting.”

Vicky said that she was surprised at how many other people had experienced the same both in the UK and abroad.

“It comes up in conversation when it’s happened to other people,” she said. “Now we joke about it: ‘Do you remember when we were going to France and they stopped us?’”

To sign the petition visit chn.ge/1fhkYkC or follow @parentpassport for the latest news on the campaign.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Border Force officers may need to ask adults travelling with children about their relationship with the child. We endeavour to do this as quickly and sensitively as possible.

“Our decision not to have parental names on children’s passports is in line with the majority of other countries. A passport is a document for travel. Its fundamental purpose would change if it was used to identify a parental relationship.”

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