Border officials at one of Britain’s busiest airports could have conducted illegal searches of luggage without passengers’ knowledge, according to a report published today.
Border Force staff seized 1,147 pieces of luggage as a result of secret baggage searches at Birmingham Airport in the year to September, however serious concerns about whether the powers are being used proportionately
The report by Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine, found that staff at Birmingham Airport were not keeping records of how many times they searched luggage and no contraband was found. Guidance to staff was “contradictory and out of date” and managers admitted there had been no checks made to ensure correct procedures were being followed when bags were being searched to protect people’s privacy.
Security on aircraft is clearly important, however, people shouldn’t be afraid that their luggage will be searched on spurious grounds or at random. People can’t challenge these searches if they don’t even know they’re going on.
The glaring absence of any detail about how these powers have been used leaves open a number of troubling questions, particularly how many people’s luggage was searched without anything being found.
Unfortunately this is another case of the public’s confidence in oversight of invasive powers being undermined because of the huge holes in the data being collected by the authorities. People will rightly question whether as a result staff are able to abuse their right to open luggage with impunity.