Sydney, Feb 26 (UNI) In what can be called an unsparing security check at the Brisbane Airport here, the authorities are demanding passengers to remove their turbans and other culturally and religiously sensitive headgears.
A federal investigation has been launched into a ruling by the company in charge of the airport's security to demand passengers remove for security checks religious headwear, including turbans, veils and Jewish skull caps, the Daily Telegraph reported today.
It is standard airport practice around the world that religious headwear is only removed after conventional screening methods raise an alarm.
At least one international flight was delayed at the weekend when staff from the company, ISS Security, demanded 13 people of the Sikh religion remove their turbans and asked a Muslim woman to take off her face veil.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development is investigating whether the clampdown by ISS breached federal airport policy.
But ISS employees yesterday said a directive was issued on Saturday demanding all passengers remove their religious headwear for security checks, regardless of whether there was any cause for suspicion.
"We were told you have to take them off, or you'll be stood down," one worker said.
The edict, which was reversed late yesterday after inquiries by The Courier-Mail, follows revelations about weak screening and regular weapons breaches at Brisbane Airport.
The concerns include two knives being found on passengers who had passed through security checkpoints and broad failures of screeners to monitor passengers and baggage.
If workers believed they had been ordered to remove headgear of all passengers there must have been a misunderstanding, an ISS spokesman said.
Australia has around 50,000 Sikhs among the 21 million population.
Vijaypal Singh of the Australian Sikh Association said he had never heard of such a security measure at any airport in the world.
"The practice has always been not to remove headgear worn for cultural or religious reasons unless there is a security concern, such as the metal detector sounding," he said.
However, Airport spokesman Jim Carden said security measures requiring the removal of headgear after a security alarm had been in place for a decade.
Late yesterday airport security staff were issued with a directive stating that headgear was only to be removed if an alarm had been triggered. It apparently followed an incident involving three Indian men, who were told to remove their turbans but refused.
A federal transport department spokesman said concerns about the procedures at Brisbane Airport would be investigated.
UNI XC MS HS1649