Bedford MP Mohammad Yasin delayed in boarding flight 'because his name was Mohammad'

MP Mohammad Yasin, who represents the Labour Party for Bedford.
Credit: PA
Labour MP Mohammad Yasin who represents Bedford. Credit: PA

An MP was stopped from boarding a flight to Canada “because his name was Mohammad”, Parliament has heard.

Mohammad Yasin, who represents Bedford for the Labour Party, was part of a group of other MPs from the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee due to fly last week.

But Mr Yasin, who was voted in as an MP in 2017, was delayed boarding for extra questioning.

He was asked if he was carrying a knife or any other weapon and where he was born when he was taken aside by Air Canada officials.

The MP underwent similar questioning from officials on his return trip to the UK, the Commons was told.

Air Canada has apologised to Mr Yasin over "any inconvenience or upset this situation may have created" and the high commissioner in Ottawa who was "amazed" at what happened and raised it at Canadian government.

The incident was highlighted in the Commons by Clive Betts - Labour chairman of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.

He told other MPs he would write to the Canadian high commissioner in the UK to make clear the "racist and Islamophobic nature" of what happened last week was unacceptable.

Speaking outside the chamber after Mr Betts raised the "serious incident", Mr Yasin said: "It was stressful and humiliating to be singled out in such an aggressive way by immigration control, especially when travelling in a group as a representative of the British Parliament on long-arranged committee business.

"While I don’t expect special treatment as a Member of Parliament, it does concern me that had I not been an MP, how much worse the experience might have been.”

Mr Betts said: "When the committee checked in for their flights at Heathrow, all members got through with the exception of the Member for Bedford, who was delayed for questioning for a considerable period.

"He was told it was because his name was Mohammad.

"He was also asked whether he was carrying a knife, or other offensive weapon, he was also asked where he was born. The questioning was undertaken by officials from Air Canada and we believe the Canadian government, and despite him already having been given a visa to enter Canada.

"After proving he was an MP with the help of my committee clerk, he was eventually allowed through.

“At Montreal airport, the same issues were raised by Canadian immigration."

Mr Betts added: "He has received apologies from the parliamentary secretary to the Canadian minister for immigration and Air Canada, however, given the racist and Islamophobic nature of these challenges, I believe that it is worth writing to the Canadian high commissioner.

"It was completely unacceptable for a member of this House to be treated in this way.

"Because he was an MP he was allowed on his flight. If, however, he had been one of our constituents who had been so challenged, he might have been refused."

Deputy speaker Sir Roger Gale said he was dismayed at the treatment of the MP adding: "It is wholly unacceptable under any circumstances."

The Air Canada spokesman added: "Mr Yasin was designated for additional screening prior to his flight after a security check, but he was still able to travel as planned as he was quickly cleared.

"We are following up internally the handling of this particular matter to ensure procedures were properly followed and we have also been in touch with UK and Canadian authorities."

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