Women Suffer Disproportionately More Searches at Gatwick Airport

In a recently published inspection report by the independent chief inspector of Borders and Immigration, UK, it has been highlighted that passenger searches at Gatwick Airport North Terminal are unfavourable to certain groups of travellers, especially women.

John Vine CBE QPM, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, has reported that while immigration is working hard to only refuse entry to the UK based on sound logic, it is matter of concern that 71 percent of passenger searches are unjustified and disproportionate. The searches have also resulted in the arrest of some persons, even though the initial searches had not provided any justifiable reason.

The report also highlighted that certain officers often use negative stereotypes in deciding to stop passengers and search for illicit goods, and are often negatively prejudiced against certain segments of people, especially women of African-American origins.

John Vine, in his report, as independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, said, ‘Gatwick is the UK’s second largest airport dealing with over 30 million passenger journeys a year. At the time of inspection, a number of things were working well such as soundly based decisions to refuse entry to the UK, 100% passport swiping against the Home Office Warnings Index and good joint working with stakeholders.

I am, however, concerned about the use of search of person powers in detecting illicit goods. Searches were found to be neither justified nor proportionate in a high percentage of the cases sampled; in some instances passengers were also arrested even though searches hadn’t revealed any illicit goods and some searches were conducted without appropriate authorisation.

I was also very concerned to learn of discriminatory practice in the conduct of detection activity. The extent of any discriminatory practices should be investigated, and action taken, to ensure officers understand and comply with the Agency’s duties under the Equality Act 2010.’