Last weekend during the bank holiday I traveled to Europe, specifically Belgium, to visit a friend and to go sightseeing to Aachen in Germany. We used your Arriva bus 350 to go from Maastricht (where we arrived from Leuven by train), and as I am aware, as both Holland and Germany are in the Schengen Zone and do not have border checks between the nations, I am not required to show my identification papers or ID to any transport staff, other than the police when requested. This was the case when I traveled from Belgium to Holland by train, I.e the conductors simply checked to see if I had a valid ticket for the train.
However, to my surprise, the female conductor of the Arriva bus asked me specifically when I was purchasing a ticket to show my ID to make sure I was able to cross the German border. I was extremely taken aback and shocked at this kind of treatment by your bus staff, and knowing my rights, initially refused to do so to the driver, telling her that Germany is in the Schengen zone and I don’t need to prove if I am legally entering Germany as according to EU law, legally I do not need to do so while traveling within the Schengen zone. As it soon became clear that the driver wouldn’t let me board the bus without showing my identification, I relented and showed her my British driving license. However, even more surprisingly and shockingly, the driver told me that this kind of identification was not acceptable and I needed to show her my passport or national ID card to enter Germany.
At this point, me being at my wits end, I kindly informed the driver that I entered Belgium (a Schengen zone member) from the UK (a non Schengen zone member) with my British passport, which was required as you need to show a valid form of identification to enter the Schengen zone from a non Schengen zone country. As the UK does not participate in a national ID scheme, which most EU countries like Holland and Germany do, I do not have a national ID card and explained this to the driver, stating that once someone enters the Schengen zone, they do not need to show their ID while traveling to another Schengen zone country. As it is recommended to carry some form of ID with you for safety, I always keep my driving license in my possession as I do not feel comfortable carrying my passport with me, and as such, produced this to the driver to satisfy her.
Even with all this in mind, the driver finally told me that she would not allow my friend and I to go to Aachen in Germany, and told us we had to get off at the last stop in Holland before crossing the German border, in Vaals. As we were both bemused at this point by the driver’s logic, we agreed to her absurd request and got off at Vaals as we did not want to get into legal trouble. We simply walked across the German border, where there are no border controls of course, and took the next 350 bus into Aachen.
My complaint addresses the treatment I received from your bus driver and her blatant discrimination and xenophobic behaviour to me specifically, as I noticed I was markedly the only person asked by the driver to show my ID to enter Germany, and no other passengers were requested to do so, including my friend who is fluent in Dutch. I strongly feel that due to my ethnic and national background, I was racially discriminated against by your bus driver, furthered by the fact that I do not speak Dutch and communicated in English to the driver. In my point of view, it looked as if the driver was acting as an immigration officer to decide whether I am allowed to enter Germany or not. I would like you to know that I have done my research and found that only the local authorities and police are allowed to ask someone for their identification in the Schengen area, and your bus driver was out of line in doing so.
I would be satisfied in receiving an apology from your team as well as the driver, and compensation for this kind of humiliating and discriminatory behaviour demonstrated to me by your driver. It cannot be a coincidence that in the 4 cross border journeys we took that day, this driver was the only one who asked me for my identification. She was legally not allowed to do so, and made me feel unwelcome and as if I was not allowed to be in a country which I am legally allowed to be in. The driver had no right in making her judgment.