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Underweight passport pic left traveller stuck in Amsterdam

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Putting on weight can be bad for your health: it may also cause you difficulties when trying to enter the United Kingdom.

That was the unfortunate experience of a Mr Derrick Agyeman, for whom weight gain led to an enforced stay in the Netherlands, and litigation that is still making its ponderous way through the UK courts some years later.

Agyeman, 37, lost the latest legal round in the case earlier this month, though the matter seems likely to drag on.

Details of exactly what happened are still a little hazy, and the fact that this story surfaced in the Australian press led us initially to wonder whether we weren’t victim to a new urban myth in the making.

However, the Home Office has since confirmed that this incident really did happen – and the Foreign Office has also acknowledged it, whilst refusing to provide further comment.

In August 2006, Agyeman, a British citizen who had been issued with a British passport by the High Commission in Ghana, was returning to the United Kingdom after a weekend away with friends. He is understood to have been buying a house and finding work in the UK.

He was arrested and detained by the authorities in Amsterdam on the basis that he did not resemble the person in his passport photograph. He had put on some 31kg in weight and according to ninemsn, "his fuller lips and ears did not match his passport photograph", which had been taken some nine years previously.

Agyeman’s woes were compounded when the British Consulate cancelled his passport and refused to issue a new one until appropriate documents were provided. He then languished a further three months in Amsterdam before he was finally able to return home to the UK.

He is alleged to have said: "I cry when I think about what happened with me."

Since returning to the UK, Agyeman has sought redress, bringing a case against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who is responsible for the working of overseas representatives of the UK government.

His claim for judicial review was heard in the Administrative Court earlier this month, and was based on a claim that the British Consulate in the Netherlands had acted unlawfully in cancelling his passport and refusing to issue a replacement straight away. They had further breached his rights under article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights (respect for private and family life).

The Court dismissed this application, but that may not be the end of the matter. A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told us: "This was a complex case stretching over years, involving several agencies.

"There is no question of deliberate withholding or trying to delay the case which was in nobody's interests. The matter may still be the subject of litigation and it would therefore be inappropriate to comment further." ®

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