Glasgow airport security checks “humiliate” Asian community

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by Robert Knight

Security checks at Glasgow Airport are “counter-productive” and risk creating “resentment” within the Asian community, claimed a Holyrood politician this week.  Humza Yousaf, SNP list member for Glasgow, called for a public meeting to discuss the issue with the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on Wednesday.

Mr Yousaf said the issue had been raised with him frequently during the election campaign and that the situation in Glasgow had been particularly bad over the last 12 months.  He added that one constituent of Asian origin – a Scottish resident of 35 years – was now travelling to Manchester Airport whenever he wished to fly.

Speaking to the Scotsman Mr Yousaf detailed the breadth of the complaints.

“One of the questions asked is, what mosque do you pray at?  How many times a day do you pray?  Does your wife wear a headscarf?

“Second is the nature of the stop itself.  Sometimes it is so blatant that it is literally making ethnic minorities queue up in a different line.  I’ve been stopped twice myself and it’s humiliating.

“The third point that people raise is the frequency with which it happens.  One person said he had been stopped seven times in three months.  If you’ve been cleared once, why must you continue to go through this?”

Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act Police can stop and question anyone at any UK port or Airport with ‘reasonable suspicion’.   Officers may then hold a person for up to nine hours, conduct a strip search and take fingerprints and DNA.  The perception amongst some Scottish Asians is there has been a particular problem with the application of the law in Glasgow.  In June the airport announced a ‘security open day’ in an attempt to assuage their concerns.

When we spoke to Mr Yousaf he said that of the 82,000 questioned under Schedule 7, Asians were 42 times more likely to be stopped, a situation he described as “unacceptable”.  

Police deny that any racial profiling is taking place and that any disparity in the ethnicity of those questioned can be explained by the types of destination to which members of the Asian community are most likely to travel.

Speaking to BBC Scotland Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill described the issue as “a matter of balance”.  He continued: “How do we protect people, not just in Scotland but throughout the world, from terrorism, and how do we make sure that individuals who are travelling on a legitimate basis are not subject searches or questioning that’s inappropriate.”

Mr MacAskill said he had been looking into the issue for “quite some time” and was “genuinely regretful” for the trouble caused to innocent people.  However he added, “We don’t make any apologies as a Police force or as a Government for the necessity to deal with these matters, what we have to do is to listen, to learn and to act.”

In related news, this week the UK Government reduced the UK’s terror threat level from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’.