MP stopped from boarding flight to Canada ‘because his name was Mohammad’

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

Labour MP for Bedford Mohammad Yasin was due to fly to Canada with a group of other MPs from the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee when he was delayed for extra questioning.

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

Labour MP Mohammad Yasin
Labour MP Mohammad Yasin was delayed for extra questioning when travelling to and from Canada (Chris Radburn/PA)

He underwent similar questioning from officials on his return trip to the UK, MPs were told.

Clive Betts, the Labour chairman of the committee, raised the incident in the Commons and said he would write to the Canadian high commissioner in the UK to make clear the “racist and Islamophobic nature” of what happened was unacceptable.

Mr Yasin watched from the Labour backbenches as Mr Betts raised a point of order about the “serious incident”, which he said occurred last week.

The committee chairman 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.”

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Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East (David Woolfall/UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Betts added: “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.

“On return at Toronto airport on the way back, he was again challenged and got on his flight with the assistance of my consul general, who was very helpful.”

Mr Betts went on: “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, which I will do.

“I believe it is important to put these concerns on the parliamentary record. It was completely unacceptable for a Member of this House to be treated in this way.

“But 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.

“We raised the issue with our high commissioner in Ottawa, who was very supportive, and amazed at what happened given the multicultural nature of Canada as an open and welcoming country.

“She has raised it with the Canadian government, and… I would also raise it in Parliament to try and ensure that no-one in the future is treated in this way.”

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Deputy speaker Sir Roger Gale said the situation was ‘wholly unacceptable under any circumstances’ (Richard Townshend/UK Parliament/PA)

Deputy Speaker Sir Roger Gale replied: “I am sure that the whole House will share the dismay at the treatment of the Member for Bedford.

“It is wholly unacceptable under any circumstances.

“But it is particularly concerning, occurring as it did, in the course of official travel on parliamentary business.”

Speaking outside the chamber, 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.”

A spokesman for Air Canada said: “Unfortunately 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.

“We regret any inconvenience or upset this situation may have created for Mr Yasin and have reached out to apologise.”