Two Orthodox Israeli women were flown back to Tel Aviv on Monday after spending five days in a UK immigration detention centre after being arrested at a London airport for carrying “large quantities” of drugs.
The women, who Jewish News has decided not to name, are both in their early 20s and were stopped by Border Force officers at Stansted Airport on Thursday last week. They were arrested, sent to Yarlswood detention centre and refused bail.
Orthodox leaders from the Jewish Community Council (JCC) in London’s Stamford Hill helped secure the women’s return to Israel and later said they had been “very lucky” not to have ended up in court, warning others to think before they travel.
While the circumstances are still unclear, it is believed that the women had been promised a luxury London stay by a man in Israel if they delivered a package containing Class B drugs, understood to be khat. It is not known how the drugs managed to evade detection at Ben-Gurion Airport, their point of departure.
Orthodox leaders said the women, aged 20 and 22, were “incredibly naïve”. They warned others to check the contents of any packages they are given before flying, and to answer border guards’ questions honestly.
The Israeli women, who live in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are believed to have lied when asked if they were carrying any packages for anyone.
They were offered a flight back to Israel on Friday, a day after they were arrested, but refused, meaning UK authorities lost money on their booked tickets and airport transfers. The next available flight was on Monday.
JCC director Levi Shapiro said: “We were pleased to help, and in the end we had a good outcome, but this case serves as a warning not to take packages to bring to the UK without checking what it contains. That’s very important, especially with the High Holy Days coming up. You must be careful and answer officers’ questions truthfully.”
He added: “These young women were asked to carry this bag by someone who offered them money and they got caught. They were lucky – very lucky – to be sent back to Israel and not to be sent to a British courthouse.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Border Force’s priority is security and all drug detections are referred to law enforcement partners to consider possible prosecution. In cases where prosecution is not pursued, foreign nationals found in possession of illegal drugs at the border can be refused entry to the UK and removed.”
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