A Keighley dad repeatedly detained and questioned at UK airports says he is sceptical of a Government pledge to not discriminate against ethnic minority travellers.
The Home Office was responding to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which said people of Pakistani origin were 52 times more likely to be stopped under the Terror-ism Act. Schedule 7 of the act allows officers to detain people for up to nine hours.
Riddlesden resident Shammy Israil, 37, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, said he was stopped and questioned at airport security four consecutive times in four years.
“The last time it happened I thought, ‘this is beyond a joke’,” he said. “For the first time in my life, I felt I didn’t belong in Britain.”
Mr Israil said he complained after he was stopped the fourth time, and received an apology from a senior anti-terrorism official. But he fears that as long as the same system remains in place, nothing will change for travellers of Muslim origin.
Shohab Ali, 29, general secretary of Keighley’s Muhammadi Mosque, said it is wrong for Muslims to be singled out because of their faith and physical appearance.
“It’s one thing stopping people if you have factual evidence, but it’s very different if you stop people just because they look different or because they’re Muslim,” he added.
“I know a lot of people who’ve experienced this. We want to comply with the law, but people shouldn’t be stopped randomly for the sake of it.”
Mr Israil, a law firm practice manager who is married with two children, said he was stopped and questioned at Heathrow returning from a pilgrimage in 2008.
He was also stopped at Man-chester Airport twice in 2009 and at Newcastle Airport two years later. He was questioned, finger-printed and even ordered to give a DNA sample on one occasion.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Schedule 7 is a vital border security power, which helps the police, security service and other agencies detect and disrupt terrorist threats.
“We are committed to ensuring Schedule 7 is not operated in a discriminatory way, and we’re working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ensure it does not have a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups.”