EX­CLU­SIVE: PM’s girlfriend caught in visa wran­gle af­ter her five-day visit to war-torn African coun­try

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Simon Walters

BORIS Johnson faced em­bar­rass­ment last night af­ter his girlfriend was barred from vis­it­ing the United States.

Carrie Sy­monds, 31, ap­plied for a visa to go to Amer­ica in the next few days as part of her job with a US-based en­vi­ron­men­tal group, but the Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties have blocked the re­quest.

It is be­lieved the de­ci­sion stems from a five-day visit made last year by Miss Sy­monds to East Africa, a re­gion riven by civil war. The Prime Min­is­ter’s girlfriend went with her friend nimco Ali, a cam­paigner against fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion, who was born in So­ma­liland.

Dur­ing their trip, they met the self- de­clared So­ma­liland pres­i­dent Muse Bihi Abdi to dis­cuss women’s is­sues and sea pol­lu­tion. The UK is among a hand­ful of na­tions who have diplo­matic

relations with So­ma­liland, which broke away from neigh­bour­ing So­ma­lia in 1991.

But cru­cially, the US – which backs So­ma­lia – does not.

It is un­cer­tain whether Miss Sy­monds ap­plied for a US Elec­tronic Sys­tem for Travel Au­tho­riza­tion (Esta). If she did, she would have been scup­pered by her travel his­tory.

An Esta is an au­to­mated sys­tem which de­cides whether tourists can en­ter the coun­try for 90 days with­out a visa, pro­vid­ing they do not pose a se­cu­rity risk.

In 2016, a ques­tion was added to the Esta form, ask­ing: ‘Have you trav­elled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Su­dan, Libya, So­ma­lia or Yemen on or af­ter March 1, 2011?’

An­swer­ing ‘yes’ to this ques­tion will see an Esta ap­pli­ca­tion re­fused out­right.

Miss Sy­monds had hoped to visit the United States in­stead of trav­el­ling with Mr Johnson to this weekend’s G7 sum­mit of the world’s ma­jor eco­nomic pow­ers in the French sea­side city of Biar­ritz.

She has a se­ries of meet­ings in Amer­ica as part of her job as an adviser for Oceana, a non

Down­ing Street can’t in­ter­vene on her be­half

profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that seeks to pro­tect the world’s oceans.

Miss Sy­monds now faces a race against time to get the ban lifted. Efforts to re­solve the mat­ter quickly have been made more dif­fi­cult be­cause she can­not – of­fi­cially – ask Down­ing Street to in­ter­vene on her be­half.

When she moved into No 10, of­fi­cials is­sued a care­fully worded state­ment say­ing it would re­sult in ‘no ex­tra cost to the tax­payer’.

This re­flected the fact that she is not mar­ried to Mr Johnson, who is still wed to sec­ond wife Ma­rina Wheeler, the mother of four of his children. It means that un­like No 10 spouses such as Cherie Blair or Samantha Cameron, Miss Sy­monds does not have her own Down­ing Street staff.

Miss Sy­monds, the US embassy in Lon­don and Down­ing Street all de­clined to comment last night. But a diplo­matic source said: ‘We are hope­ful this can be sorted out in time for

Ms Sy­monds to go to the US as planned.’

For decades the So­mali re­gion has been hit by vi­o­lence from rival Is­lamic ter­ror groups in­clud­ing Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab.

In the minds of many Amer­i­cans, So­ma­lia is as­so­ci­ated with the Black Hawk Down tragedy, when 18 US Spe­cial Forces sol­diers were killed in 1993 af­ter two he­li­copters were shot down in the capital Mo­gadishu when a mis­sion to seize a war­lord went trag­i­cally wrong.

Don­ald Trump sparked con­tro­versy last month when he told So­mali-born US Demo­crat politi­cian Il­han Omar to ‘go back’ to her na­tive coun­try.

Miss Ali, who was awarded the OBE in June, was born in So­ma­liland in 1982, when it was part of So­ma­lia. She moved to the UK aged four.

Miss Sy­monds car­ried out her first pub­lic en­gage­ment at No 10 along­side Mr Johnson last week when they met guests from six hos­pices. She fol­lowed it up on Fri­day with her first speech at the an­nual Bird­fair event in Rut­land, East Mid­lands, known as the ‘bird­watch­ers’ Glas­ton­bury’, ap­pear­ing along­side TV an­i­mal rights activist Chris Pack­ham.

Miss Sy­monds’ hopes of es­tab­lish­ing her­self as Down­ing Street’s ‘First Lady’ were boosted at the weekend when it was con­firmed she will ac­com­pany Mr Johnson on the Prime Min­is­ter’s tra­di­tional Septem­ber stay at Bal­moral with the Queen. She will be the first un­mar­ried part­ner of a sit­ting prime min­is­ter to visit the Queen’s of­fi­cial res­i­dence in Scot­land.

Mr Johnson was born in New York, but in 2016 it was re­ported he had re­nounced his US cit­i­zen­ship af­ter be­ing hit with a tax bill of tens of thou­sands of pounds by Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties.

Visa de­nied: Boris Johnson’s girlfriend, Carrie Sy­monds

Above and right: Pho­tos posted on­line by Carrie Sy­monds dur­ing her trip to So­ma­liland

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.