Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that passenger profiling is to be introduced on all flights to and from Britain.
Terrorist suspects will appear on a ‘no-fly’ list, and there will also be a secret watch list of people that will need extra vetting before being allowed to fly.
Criteria will be put in place and certain formulas will be used as a guide to determine who goes on the list. Searches will be carried out according to age, gender, religion and race, which has angered civil rights groups who fear Muslims will become an obvious target. Checks will also be made on previous criminal convictions, immigration issues and links to known terror suspects. Booking patterns will also be looked into, for example someone booking a flight from a hostile country, carrying no luggage, paying by cash and travelling at short notice will also trigger an alert.
The Labour government first considered these plans at the beginning of the year, following an attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to explode a device hidden in his underwear on a flight over Detroit in the United States, however Theresa May has made the decision to actually step up security following the discovery of a suspect package on a plane at East Midlands Airport last week.
The package was one of two ‘ink bombs’ found in printer cartridges, the other was on an aircraft in Dubai, with both flights originating from Yemen. A US official has revealed that similar suspect packages were intercepted two months ago in what is thought to have been a ‘dry run’ for last weeks bombing attempts.
Toner cartridges over 500g will be instantly banned from all hand baggage on flights departing from the UK and on all cargo flights unless it is proved that they come from a shipper with government clearance. Unaccompanied freight coming in to the UK from Yemen and Somalia will also be banned according to the government, following possible contact between Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Somalian terrorist groups.
She stated “We are looking at all the techniques that we should be using in order to ensure that we can provide the maximum protection for people here in the UK. In relation to passengers, we are enhancing our ability at the borders to ensure that we take steps to make sure that those who are a threat to the UK do not travel here.”
The move may be welcomed by frequent travellers who will appreciate the extra security measures; however some see it as excessive. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary is never shy in saying how he feels and has already spoken out about the new measures. “Every time we have a terrorist scare, the first thing that goes out of the window is common sense. We in the aviation industry are all for effective security measures such as taking knives off passengers, but we are all opposed to ludicrous and ineffective measures.” He concluded “They [terrorists] are laughing away in their caves at the prime minister and his security team meeting to discuss printer cartridges.”