Minorities 'alienated by airport security'
OVER-ZEALOUS airport security threatens to exacerbate the terror threat by pushing those flirting with radical Islam over the edge, an MSP has warned.
Humza Yousaf, who organised a meeting last night between members of ethnic minorities and police and Scottish Government figures, warned there was growing resentment over how Glasgow Airport's border control was operating.
He has also launched a petition calling on Home Secretary Theresa May to review Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which governs searches of people at UK borders.
Mr Yousaf, who is the Nationalist MSP for Glasgow, said: "Everyone understands there's a security threat to Scotland, but any counter-terror expert will tell you that there is a tipping point caused by a sense of grievance towards an authority.
"Instead of counter-terror, it's counter-productive, and leaving people with a sense of resentment. Now 999 out of 1,000 people will shrug their shoulders and carry on, but one person who may already be flirting with these ideas may be pushed over the edge."
Strathclyde Police are not understood to have received any complaints about security measures at the airport from members of ethnic communities.
However, Mr Yousaf believes some people are voting with their feet and choosing to make domestic journeys by land and departing on international flights from other airports, such as Manchester.
Glasgow Airport plans to organise a security open day for members of ethnic communities to try to allay concerns that they are being unfairly singled out.
Mr Yousaf said it was a growing concern for people.
He said: "In 2008 and 2009 the situation seemed to get better, but in the last 12 months, during the election campaign in the south side of Glasgow, which has higher numbers of ethnic minorities, it came up a lot.
"People as young as 18, right up to 70-year-olds have been affected. The complaints generally fall into three categories.
"One is the questions asked. 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?"
Mr Yousaf has also joined the likes of David Lammy MP in calling for a review of Section 7 of the Terrorism Act, and launched a petition to give to Mrs May.Critics have said Schedule 7, like its predecessor Schedule 44, is too broad, draconian and over-used.
Under its terms, people can be physically detained for up to nine hours while they and their belongings are searched. In some cases they are strip-searched, DNA samples are taken and they are fingerprinted.
They may also be questioned on their social, political and religious views.
Police do not say how often the powers are used, for security reasons, but sources insist it is infrequent at Glasgow Airport. Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who attended last night's meeting, defended the way searches were conducted in Scotland.
He said: "Scotland is not immune from terrorism, so it is vital that our airports are effectively policed to preserve public order and ensure that any threats to security are identified and addressed.
"The police play a crucial role, having to balance a duty to tackle crime with the protection of individual civil liberties.
"The powers they use are necessary to assist in their challenging role. Officers on the ground are best placed to make individual judgments as to when those powers should be used.
"I believe our forces make a proportionate and necessary use of the powers available to them.
"It is also important that powers to stop and question travellers must be used consistently, sensitively and appropriately.
"I am well aware of the sensitivities involved in the use of Schedule 7 powers.
"Where there are concerns and grievances we need to understand them and work together to try to address them."
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police added: "Officers from Strathclyde Police, Acpos (the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland], representatives from the Scottish Government and members of the local community took part in a public meeting to address any concerns the public may have.
"Schedule 7 is only one of many tools we use to ensure the wrong people do not gain access into the UK through our airports and ports."
Meanwhile, airport bosses insisted they were working with ethnic communities to try to allay any concerns they may have. A Glasgow Airport spokesman said: "Schedule 7 checks are a police matter and we can, therefore, not comment. Glasgow Airport has worked and continues to work closely with various local ethnic minority groups and we will help facilitate an open day which will help highlight and explain the procedures involved in the security screening process."
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