A Labour MP was stopped from boarding a flight to Canada with other members of parliament “because his name was Mohammad”, the Commons heard on Monday.
Mohammad Yasin, Labour’s MP for Bedford, was due to fly to Canada with other MPs from the Commons levelling up, housing and communities committee when he was delayed for questioning “for a considerable period” at airports in both countries last week. Clive Betts, the chair of the committee, said the incident was unacceptable because of its “racist and Islamophobic nature”, and that he would write to the Canadian high commissioner in the UK.
He added that his colleague 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. Yasin then underwent similar questioning from officials on his return trip to the UK, MPs were told.
Betts, who had raised a point of order about the “serious incident”, told the Commons: “When the committee checked in for their flights at Heathrow, all Members got through except for the member for Bedford, who was delayed for questioning for a considerable period.
“He was told it was because his name was Mohammad.”
Betts added: “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.”
Betts went on to say Yasin “has received apologies from the parliamentary secretary to the Canadian minister for immigration and Air Canada” but “given the racist and Islamophobic nature of these challenges”, he plans on “writing to the Canadian high commissioner”.
He added: “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.”
The deputy speaker 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, during official travel on parliamentary business.”