About colour of skin in terror times

Atmosphere of suspicion since foiling of alleged mid-air terror plot has affected all non-whites, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 03:19 IST
Vijay Dutt

The atmosphere of fear and suspicion since the unearthing of the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners on August 10 has affected all non-whites.

Communities secretary Ruth Kelly has acknowledged that for some communities, life in Britain feels different from what it was till two weeks ago.

So far, ethnic profiling mostly caused trouble to air travellers, but even in train and buses suspicious looks follow a non-white with a rucksack or a beard.

India-born Claude Moraes, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) for London, said he was repeatedly treated as a suspected terrorist while travelling. Moraes said he was twice detained and subjected to a full body search at airports for "travelling while Asian".

One on occasion, the security staff at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris did not believe Moraes was an MEP even though he was carrying the special diplomatic passport. On another occasion, he was almost thrown off a plane.

Moraes insisted he was not seeking to complain about his own treatment and had tried to protest on behalf of many people from ethnic minorities who had suffered similar experiences. He said the issue was a "twilight zone" because race-relations laws did not apply at airports and people were wary of complaining as they acknowledged the need for heightened security.

Moraes is opposing calls by some aviation experts and airline bosses for a system of ethnic profiling. "It will mean taking people out of queues because they look Muslim," he said.

Liberal Democrat MEPs Baroness Ludford and Sajjad Karim have backed Moraes's campaign about the treatment of ethnic minorities while traveling.

Last week in London, the EU home affairs ministers rejected a formal European-wide system of "ethnic profiling" at their emergency meeting, but there is concern that the idea is backed by France, Germany and the Netherlands.

First Published: Aug 25, 2006 02:32 IST