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Know Your Rights Whilst Travelling as a Muslim #FlyingWhileMuslim

by in Identity on 31st July, 2019

All information correct at the time of research. 

It is the time of year to travel, but what happens as a visible Muslim when entering the airport? According to CAGE, a London-based advocacy organisation which aims to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror, Muslims are stopped under a “breathtakingly broad and intrusive power”’ called Schedule 7. This power allows officers to stop, question, detain and search individuals without suspecting them of any crime. There is no need for suspicion, officers can stop people based on a “hunch” or as often is the case based on racial or religious profiling.

Stop Watch a coalition group working toward promoting effective, accountable, and fair policing, by providing information to the public has said,  “Schedule 7 is a highly intrusive stop power, which operates outside of the regulatory framework that covers other (police) powers of stop and search.”

Some stats

  • Over half a million people have been stopped and profiled at UK borders since 2000 till 2018
  • At its peak over 80,000 people were stopped in one year

What happens?

When stopped entering or exiting the UK under law you are obliged to:

  • Answer all questions, even incredibly intrusive and intimate ones
  • Hand over your DNA and fingerprints
  • Disclose all passwords and encryption keys
  • All electronic material can be seized, copied and analysed without a warrant
  • You can be removed from a ship, aircraft or vehicle
  • Officers will search you and all your belongings
  • Your belongings can be kept for up to 7 days

Your rights:

  • No right to privacy for your information or data
  • No right to remain silent, failure to answer questions could lead to your arrest and penalties carry time in prison
  • You can be held and questioned for up to 6 hours
  • You have a right to contact a lawyer, though the officer can proceed questioning you without a lawyer present

All while you have not been suspected of any crime!

According to a government report, Review of the operation of Schedule 7: A Public Consultation, the Act is there for, “Individuals engaged in terrorist-related activity travel to plan, finance, train and commit their attacks. Examining people at ports and airports is necessary to protect public safety.”

“The number of terrorist-related arrests that result directly from a Schedule 7 stop each year is not large – about 20 annually between 2004-2009, leading to approximately 7 convictions each year.”

If the statistics are analysed, however, 99% of those examined under Schedule 7 are innocent, they are released without charge.

Statistics suggest the “Ethnic disproportionality in the use of more intensive stops of over an hour, showing 36% being Asian.” Nearly 80% of those stopped are from an ethnic minority.

Who can stop you?

  • An immigration officer
  • A customs officer
  • A police constable

So what should you do?

Stop being visibly Muslim, kidding, there is no way to make yourself look more palatable to security forces. This is a myth. If you are stopped:

  • You do not have to answer any questions about other people’s behaviour as this would be beyond the powers of questioning under Schedule 7.
  • If you are searched, you have a right to be searched by a person of the same gender.

The police cannot

  • Ask you to spy on/inform on members of your community – they stated the aim of the power is to stop terrorism, not as a recruitment tool for the police;
  • Use force when questioning you;
  • Take your DNA, fingerprints, or intimate samples without your permission.
  • Arrest you solely on the basis that you refuse to consent to your DNA being taken.

If you are detained

  • Should this so happen you have a right to a relative or a friend being notified of your detention. If you are then transferred elsewhere,  you can only ask for relatives to be notified, at the last place you are detained.
  • You have a right to request a solicitor to represent you. You are entitled to consult with that solicitor as soon as is reasonably practical, in private and at any time.

Know yourself

You know yourself, be confident in your identity, and your innocence, you have nothing to prove, comply with what is legally expected of you, but you are fully entitled to have your wits about you. Keep calm, and collected, and know that you owe no human anything.



Hanan has a Masters in Media in the Middle East from SOAS University. Trainee of the Muslim Women in Media institute Annual Cohort at UC Davis, California. Her interests lie in ethical fashion, modern-day slavery, and when not making Youtube videos she is somewhere in between Ballet and Kickboxing. King Julian is her spirit animal.