For seven-year-old Javaid Iqbal, the holiday to Florida was a dream trip to reward him for doing well at school.
But he was left in tears after he was stopped repeatedly at airports on suspicion of being a terrorist.
The security alerts were triggered because Javaid shares his name with a Pakistani man deported from the US, prompting staff at three airports to question his family about his identity.
The family even missed their flight home from the U.S. after officials cancelled their tickets in the confusion. And Javaid’s passport now contains a sticker saying he has undergone highlevel security checks.
Seven-year-old Javid Iqbal’s passport now contains a sticker saying he has undergone high-level security checks
The ordeal began in Manchester when Naushaba Nadeem, a doctor, and her children Sana and Fareeha, both nine, Javaid and five-year-old Iftikhar, tried to board a flight to Orlando.
Dr Nadeem, 35, said: “When we arrived at the front counter to check in at Manchester Airport, staff said there was a security block on Javaid’s name.
“I understand and agree security checks are important but he is only seven and a half years old.
“We had to stand at the desk for three hours while they checked everything out. Eventually, everything was fine and we were given our boarding passes.”
The family enjoyed their eightday holiday earlier this month, taking in Disney World and other attractions before returning to the UK on a route that began with an internal flight from Orlando to Philadelphia.
Dr Nadeem said: “It happened again at Orlando Airport and then Javaid’s name was blocked again at Philadelphia Airport.
Javid’s ordeal began when he and his mother Naushaba Nadeem, tried to board a flight to Orlando, Florida via Philadelphia
“This time they had cancelled our tickets by the time they gave Javaid security clearance. I was all on my own, I don’t know anyone in Philadelphia.”
Javaid said: “All this was about my name. They said that it had a block on it. We felt scared and didn’t know what was going on.”
His father Nadeem Iqbal, 48, a consultant anaesthetist, said: “My son is psychologically traumatised by this experience and said he doesn’t want to fly to America again.
“The problem seems to be isolated to the US because this did not happen when we visited Tenerife. We don’t want to have to experience anything like this again.”
Javaid’s parents, who moved to Blackburn from Saudi Arabia in 2002, are now considering changing their son’s name.
Dr Nadeem said: “The system should cross reference the name, then a date of birth or some other information.”
The name Javaid Iqbal was blocked and flagged up as a security alert on each airport’s computer system set up by Homeland Security, a US organisation.
A 39-year-old Pakistani man of that name was arrested in New York two months after the terror attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001.
He was never charged with any terrorism offences, although he was convicted of fraud for having false papers and deported.
He is seeking compensation from the U.S. government, claiming to have been beaten up by guards during more than a year in detention.
Security sources say that as Iqbal was deported, any attempt to enter the US by someone with a similar name would trigger an alert.
Professor Eric Grove, director of the centre for international security and war studies at Salford University, said: “There are names on file which are checked and there are certain names in combination or singly which put people under scrutiny.
‘Intelligence-based analysis has been used to compile the list but it is unlikely a sevenyear- old child is a suicide bomber. I think there must be a right balance to counter terrorism without alienating people.”
Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: “It is ridiculous, I’m shocked.
“They really should have known he was only a seven-yearold child. I do understand the reasons but this was over the top. I can understand the safety aspect but it doesn’t help relationships with different faiths.”
International airports will not discuss security policies and anti-terrorism measures and all those involved refused to comment on this case.