Air travellers to Britain may have to lift veil | india | Hindustan Times
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Air travellers to Britain may have to lift veil

This proposal follows the report that a police killer might have fled Britain wearing burqa, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 04:16 IST
Vijay Dutt

Another row is on the anvil with the reported decision of the security agencies that women in burqas will be forced to reveal their identities at UK airports. Immigration staff are legally entitled to ask any female passenger to lift her veil to verify her identity against passport photographs.

And to add fuel to the fire, the Church of England’s only Asian Bishop, Pakistan-born Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said on the Christmas Eve that women could wear the veil, if they wished in private but when at work or travelling, they must unveil their faces to help improve security and cohesion.

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has consistently warned of the grave terror threat facing the country, said, "We must find methods of allowing people to take off the veil in a way that’s dignified."

His comments are bound to re-ignite the controversy that followed Jack Straw’s revelation in October that he had asked Muslim women to remove the burqa before meetings in his Blackburn constituency. Livid Muslim leaders had demanded an apology. The fierce condemnation of Straw had, however, died down when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown came out in his support.

Home Office sources confirmed that immigration officials would be ordered to impose their legal right to lift the veils of passengers.

This follows the report that a suspected police killer might have escaped Britain dressed as a Muslim woman. But the plan has been criticised, unexpectedly by unions, which claim it would impose intolerable demands on their members, particularly female officers who would be the only ones allowed to look under veils.

Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police chief, too joined in the growing clamour for change, saying airline passengers must remove any head-dress that covers their face. Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has consistently warned of the grave terror threat facing the country, said, “We must find methods of allowing people to take off the veil in a way that’s dignified.”

So far, that despite the Immigration Act 1971 which requires everyone entering the UK to satisfy an immigration officer as to their nationality and identity, officers avoided asking women to lift their veils because of cultural sensitivity and the political correctness adopted by the Labour Government.

The number of women in veils who leave or arrive here is considerable, because a large number of them come during winters from the Arab countries.

Many countries have been classified as sensitive and women coming from there would have to go through the eye identification, once it becomes compulsory, a source who asked not to be identified, told the Hindustan Times.

Email Vijay Dutt: VDutt @aol.com

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