- Mandie Stevenson, 29, accidentally labelled herself as a terrorist on an online travel authorisation form.
- This meant postponing her bucket list trip to New York City.
- Stevenson was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2015.
- She said US authorities did not seem sympathetic and told her she would have to re-book her trip, costing her £800 (over $US1,000).
A 29-year-old cancer patient was forced to postpone her bucket list trip to New York city after accidentally labelling herself as a terrorist.
The BBC reported that Mandie Stevenson accidentally answered “yes” when an online Esta (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) form asked if she was seeking to, or had ever, engaged in terrorist activities or genocide.
Stevenson said she only realised her mistake when the application was rejected – and it meant postponing a trip to New York City that had been on her bucket list since being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in 2015.
Speaking on the BBC’s Mornings with Stephen Jardine, Stevenson said: “At first I thought it was a bad dream and then I realised what I had done.”
From Falkirik in Scotland, she went straight to the US embassy in London to try and persuade US officials she was not a security threat, and eventually had a full visa granted – though the appointment cost her £320 ($US417) compared to the much cheaper Esta, which allows UK citizens to waive their need for a full US visa.
She was also advised to rebook her trip, which she had planned to take with her boyfriend, as there was no guarantee the visa would arrive on time for her flight.
Stevenson said she first tried to fill out the form using her tablet, but the form crashed, so she tried again at work the follwing day.
To the question that reads “Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?” she told the BBC she “believed she ticked ‘no’ then when scrolling it ‘nudged and moved.'”
She was told by the embassy that it was “the worst box you could have ticked,” and was told it could take three to five days to be granted the full visa.
She said: “I pleaded but they just said ‘change your holiday.'”
She added that they did not seem sympathetic to the fact she has terminal cancer.
“I live in 12-weekly cycles because I get scanned every 12 weeks. I book my holidays in very specific times and this New York trip was going to be before I get another set of scan results, so I was really looking forward to it.
“It was stress I didn’t need.”
According to Simon Calder, travel editor of The Independent, the question on the form is “completely pointless” in the first place as “nobody who was engaged in terrorism, espionage, or genocide would ever tick ‘yes.'”
However, he said: “Once you are on that list you are never going to get off it. America is completely unforgiving. If that box gets ticked for whatever reason, immediately it’s as though the alarms go off, the shutters go down and you are into a spiral of despair.”
Stevenson rearranged her trip for the next month, costing her more than £800 ($US1,042).
“A lot of people have said ‘how on earth could you do that?’ but to me I’ve done it really easily,” she said. “I thought because it was a genuine error it would be quite easy to fix but I was quite wrong.”
Still, she said she’s now “happy again and keen to get going” – and plans to make it through the other items on her bucket list, which include a trip to Canada, visiting Thailand, and meeting football star Steven Gerrard.
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