NBC 4 New York
A 26-year-old Queens man who was banned from flying without explanation for 22 days in Europe while trying to return home after visiting family in Montenegro is finally back in New York. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.
A 26-year-old New York man who was banned from flying without explanation while trying to return home after visiting family in Montenegro is finally back in Queens.
Samir Suljovic arrived at Penn Station Monday night after spending three weeks fighting to get back to the U.S. He went to Montenegro in July and when he tried to fly back home out of Vienna, Austria on Oct. 1, airline officials told him he couldn't board the flight, citing orders from the Department of Homeland Security.
Suljovic, who was raised in Queens and lives in the borough's Oakland Gardens neighborhood, believes he was banned from flying because he's Muslim.
"I wear a cap, I have a beard, I roll my pants up," said Suljovic. "They discriminated against me because I'm Muslim. What else could it be?"
"They made me feel like I'm some kind of terrorist, some kind of criminal for no damn reason," he said. "I'm an American citizen. I'm being played here."
Suljovic said he had to eat the cost of two flights that he wasn't able to board and he spent about $2,000 in Vienna and then Munich as he tried to convince airline officials to let him go home.
"I was like a mouse in a maze. I didn't know where to go, and I was wondering when I'd come home," he said. "I had nowhere to stay. I slept at the airport for the first few days."
Suljovic said he's frustrated that government officials haven't been able to tell him why he couldn't come home, and that they haven't been able to tell him if he is on the no-fly list at all.
The Council on American-Islamic relations said that kind of non-transparency is frustratingly common.
"Until we hear from these government agencies, we have no way of knowing why someone would be on a no-fly list," said CAIR-NY Executive Director Muneer Awad. "The DHS won't confirm whether a person is on the no-fly list or not."
On Monday, too, Suljovic missed his connecting flight from Philadelphia when he said custom officials questioned him for more than an hour, and he was forced to take a train to Penn Station.
Homeland Security did not respond to calls for comment.