MP calls for new laws to protect dignity in airport security checks

February 09, 2012
Liam Proudlock

An MP has called for new laws to protect the dignity of disabled people forced to undergo intrusive security checks at airports.

The Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said many disabled travellers, particularly stoma bag-users, had been left humiliated after experiences at airport security checkpoints in the UK and Europe.

He spoke out as he introduced his new airport security (people with disabilities) bill, under the Commons ten-minute rule.

Blenkinsop said that one constituent, who has had treatment for cancer and now uses urostomy and colostomy pouches, had faced “humiliation” at several European Union (EU) airports.

She told him that security staff at Budapest airport had wanted to examine her underwear, “despite her attempts to explain that she had colostomy pouches”.

He said: “She was required to attempt to explain that to them in public, in front of fellow holidaymakers in the security queue – an experience she described as ‘totally degrading’.”

The same constituent was also poorly treated at an English airport, while a second disabled traveller, from Ballymena in Northern Ireland, faced a distressing public search at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport.

His research has revealed similar cases at airports throughout the world.

Blenkinsop said that, despite the need for security procedures, airport staff should still “act with compassion, humanity and common sense”, and not violate passengers’ “fundamental and inalienable right to be treated with dignity”.

His bill would force the government to ensure that all UK airport security staff were “trained in preserving the dignity of stoma patients, while maintaining our security”.

It would also oblige the Foreign Secretary to urge the European Commission to introduce regulations on such training throughout the EU, while the government would have to lobby the International Civil Aviation Organization on the introduction of compulsory training.

Although the bill will receive a second reading on 30 March, ten-minute rule bills rarely become law.

The Department for Transport was unable to comment on Blenkinsop’s bill.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com