29 Dec 2009

Fear of discrimination in new travel checks

7:43 am on 29 December 2009

The New Zealand Muslim community is worried the attempted attack on a US passenger jet could put Muslim air travellers under suspicion.

Security has been tightened at airports across the world, at the request of the US government, after an attempt to blow up a plane en route from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day.

A 23-year old Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been charged with attempting to destroy the aircraft with a high explosive.

Dr Anwar Ghani, from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, is concerned Muslems will be more closely scrutinised than other passengers.

"Don't pick (on) people because of their names, look at what they are involved (in). I understand that guy in the United States was under surveillance," he says.

He says it's right for authorities to keep a close watch on the movements of those on their danger list.

'Knee-jerk reaction'

New Zealand aviation commentator Peter Clark says the latest security measures imposed on travellers to the United States are a knee-jerk reaction.

The new security procedures include extensive baggage checks and physical searches.

Mr Clark says says the United States was aware of the Nigerian man, who should have been prevented from boarding the plane.

He says the real problem is a break-down of US intelligence systems, not passenger search procedures.

Other travel options available

The Travel Agents' Association of New Zealand doesn't expect travellers to cancel or postpone their flights to the US because of the security measures.

The organisation's chief executive, Paul Yeo, says people who are heading to Europe and are unhappy about the more stringent checks could choose to fly via Asia rather than Los Angeles.