A lawmaker was prevented from boarding a flight to Canada “because his name was Mohammad”, Parliament has learned.
The Labor MP for Bedford, Mohammad Yasin, was due to fly to Canada with a group of other MPs from the Commons Leveling Up, Housing and Communities Committee when he was held up for additional questioning.
Mr. Yasin was asked if he was carrying a knife or other weapon and where he was born when he was taken aside by Air Canada officers.
MPs were told he was subjected to similar questioning by officers on his return journey to the UK.
Clive Betts, the Labor chairman of the committee, raised the incident in the House of Commons and said he would write to the Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom to make clear that the “racist and Islamophobic nature” of the incident was unacceptable.
Mr Yasin watched from the Labor backbenches as Mr Betts raised a point of order about the “serious incident” which he said occurred last week.
The committee chairman said: “When the committee checked in for their flights at Heathrow, all members got through except the member for Bedford who was delayed for a considerable time due to his questioning.
“He was told it was because his name was Mohammad.”
Mr Betts added: “He was also asked whether he was carrying a knife or other offensive weapon and he was also asked where he was born.” The questioning was conducted by Air Canada officials and, in our opinion, by the Canadian Government carried out this even though he had already been granted a visa to enter Canada.
“After proving that he was an MP with the help of my committee secretary, he was finally let through.
“At Montreal airport, the same issues were raised by Canadian immigration.
“When he arrived at Toronto airport on the way back, he was challenged again and was able to board his flight with the help of my consul general, who was very helpful.”
Mr. Betts continued: “He has received an apology from the parliamentary secretary to the Canadian immigration minister and to Air Canada. However, given the racist and Islamophobic nature of these challenges, I believe it is worth writing to the Canadian High Commissioner.” I will do so.
“I believe it is important to record these concerns in Parliament. It was completely unacceptable for a Member of this House to be treated in this way.
“But because he was a member of parliament, he was allowed to take his flight. However, had he been one of our voters challenged in this way, he might have been rejected.
“We raised the issue with our high commissioner in Ottawa, who was very supportive and was amazed at what happened, given Canada’s multicultural nature as an open and welcoming country.
“She has raised it with the Canadian government and … I would also raise it in Parliament to ensure that no one is treated this way again in the future.”
Deputy Speaker Sir Roger Gale responded: “I am sure the entire House will share the dismay at the treatment of the Member for Bedford.
“It is not acceptable under any circumstances.
“But it is particularly worrying as it happened during official trips on parliamentary business.”
Outside the chamber, Mr Yasin said: “It was stressful and humiliating to be singled out so aggressively by immigration control, particularly when traveling in a group as a representative of the UK Parliament on lengthy committee matters.”
“While I do not expect special treatment as an MP, I am concerned about how much worse the experience could have been if I had not been an MP.”
An Air Canada spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, Mr. Yasin was subjected to additional screening following a security screening prior to his flight, but was still able to travel as planned as he was quickly cleared.”
“We are following up on this particular matter internally to ensure procedures were properly followed and we have also been in touch with the UK and Canadian authorities.
“We regret any inconvenience or upset this situation may have caused Mr. Yasin and have apologized.”
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Source : www.newschainonline.com