Austrian actor Elyas M'Barek only wanted to promote his new movie when he gave an interview to Berlin-based newspaper Tagesspiegel that was published Sunday. What will be mostly remembered of it, however, are his complaints about immigration officers at U.S. airports.
"If you have an Arab name, you will be treated in a particular way... I accept that there should be security checks, but I can't accept how they are conducted. You don't have to shout at people... Their tone of voice always sounds like: Shut up!," he was quoted as saying.
M'Barek, who has an Austrian mother and a Tunisian father, is no stranger to U.S. immigration. The famous German-speaking actor — named one of the 10 most prominent international talents by Variety magazine in 2012 — frequently travels to North America.
Contacted by The Washington Post, M'Barek's media spokeswoman did not want to repeat the remarks. "The interview has been exaggerated by some and Elyas will certainly be happy to travel to the U.S. in the future," she wrote in an e-mail.
M'Barek — who lived in Berlin until recently — is hardly the first foreigner to complain about immigration officers, but the U.S. Embassy in Germany apparently felt it necessary to intervene. "Sorry!," the embassy's communications staff commented on Facebook, directly addressing the actor and using a verified account. According to the comment, his and other complaints were forwarded to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and "will be taken very seriously."
Other readers weighed in, citing their own concerns. One wrote: "The rude way of speaking is not only limited to people with names that sound Arabic."
Others felt as if the United States was unfairly targeted, though. "Every time I return to Germany I am checked intensively and I have the feeling that it's worse in Frankfurt than in Chicago or New York," one user wrote, while another said that few people would receive a personal apology from the U.S. Embassy and that he hoped M'Barek would not be treated differently from others.
Despite his critical remarks, M'Barek himself seems to be much less worried about his future trips to the United States: The immigration procedure "has become increasingly quick. I guess they have realized that I've been there a couple of times and never committed a terror attack," the actor told Tagesspiegel.