News / Africa

New US Airline Security Measures Scare Africans

Nico Colombant

Nigerians and Somalis are expressing concerns about the U.S. government's new worldwide air travel security demands. The new U.S. rules call for increased screening of passengers from 14 countries, including Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.  The request follows charges against a Nigerian man for allegedly trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. 

Passengers in Lagos, Nigeria, were asked to report more than seven hours ahead of their direct flight (Monday) to Atlanta, in the south of the United States, creating very long lines.

The new rules follow a trip by Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who took a plane from Lagos to the Netherlands and then to the United States, when he allegedly tried to blow it up with explosives and a syringe he had brought on board.

A month earlier, his father had alerted U.S. authorities in Nigeria that his son, who had been studying in Yemen, was acting very erratically, and should be watched closely.

An activist for the Nigerian community in the United States, Ezi Mecha, says the worsening situation at airports for Nigerians is very unfortunate, given the warning that had been given.

"I am hoping that because the father had reported his behavior that the United States government would understand that it was a concern, so they would understand that it was not a behavior that should be attributed to the rest of the country," said Ezi Mecha.

A Nigerian university professor in Washington, Bolaji Aluko, says many people fear there may be others like Abdulmutallab, even though Nigerians have no history in international terrorism.

"We will be the victims of profiling for a while which may be a safe thing to do," said Bolaji Aluko. "The question will always be, does he have other associates in Nigeria. Are there other people like him where he comes from?"

Passengers from Somalia have also been put on a list requiring increased screening, angering Minnesota Somali community leader, Ismail Ali.

"Somalis right now they are saying, why are they doing this? Why are they investigating us?," asked Ismail Ali.

Ali is the founder of the Somali Elders Council of Central Minnesota.

"Those who are not doing anything, those who are innocent people, it is not good for us," he said. "We are afraid of this problem, if they are going to scan you, and they are going to make you naked during their scanning."

Ali believes having security lists based on countries is unfair.

"If you segregate the people, saying that he came from Africa, and we will say you guys who are coming from Asia, from Europe, from Germany, from Switzerland, we are [all from the] same basket," said Ali. "I will suggest that the government just has to control the wrongdoers."

Passengers from Sudan have also been added to this new list of enhanced security.

The list also includes passengers from Cuba, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

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