Muslims call for changes over port terror searches

Solicitor Nasir Hafezi with two men who have been stopped at Manchester Airport
Image caption Solicitor Nasir Hafezi with two men who have been stopped at Manchester Airport

Muslims in Greater Manchester are calling for changes to the Terrorism Act which allows passengers to be stopped and searched at airports.

A letter signed by several organisations has been sent to the Home Office highlighting concerns over religious profiling.

Representatives from mosques and Islamic human rights groups claim some people are detained but never charged.

They want shorter detention times and more intelligence-led policing.

The campaign also wants no DNA samples to be taken from anyone who has not been charged with an offence.

One black Muslim convert, who is in his forties, has been stopped four times at Manchester and other UK airports as he returned from visits to Indonesia, Lebanon and Egypt.

He went to Indonesia to get married and to the other two countries to study.

He said: "It's humiliating when other passengers see that you have been detained and have had your passport taken off you.

"It's degrading. As far as I'm concerned I'm not a threat to this country, I'm just going about my personal business.

"When I asked why I had been stopped the first time, I was told I fit the profile of someone who is a terrorist.

"Today it's the Muslims, a long time ago it was the Irish. I think it's quite horrendous that I'm stopped every time I come back to this country."

Solicitor Nasir Hafezi, who has represented faith leaders accused of terrorism-related offences, is also lobbying for a change to the law and claims Muslim passengers are being treated "as second-class citizens".

He said: "They're being detained, they're missing their flights and some of them are being asked to become informants on their communities. They're threatened and intimidated."

Individuals convicted

Almost 70,000 people were stopped and questioned as they left or entered the UK last year, according to Home Office figures.

It is not known how many were Muslims but a Freedom of Information request to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) last year, revealed ethnic minorities were 42 times more likely to be stopped and questioned than someone who is white.

Campaigners also want a person's faith to be recorded. At present, only ethnicity is monitored.

The Home Office says use of these powers has directly led to about 20 prosecutions a year, for terrorist-related offences between 2005 and 2009 and that a number of key individuals have been convicted as a result of being stopped at a port or airport

You can hear more on this story on Asian Network Reports on the BBC Asian Network at 1300 and 1700 GMT on Wednesday 19th or on the BBC iPlayer for seven days following transmission.

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