Paris Airport Bans 70 Muslim Workers

Paris airport bars 70 Muslim workers

Staff and agencies
Thursday November 2, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

More than 70 Muslim workers at the main airport in Paris were today stripped of their security clearance after authorities claimed they posed a risk to passengers.

A number of those affected, who work at Charles de Gaulle airport, are alleged to have taken part in extremist training camps in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Jacques Lebrot, the deputy prefect of the Seine-St-Denis district in which the airport is located, said 72 employees suspected of having links with people who rejected “France and our values”, or who were suspected of travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan, had had their passes revoked.

Mr Lebrot told the New York Times that one employee was discovered to have been a friend of Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber who tried to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001. Reid is now serving a life sentence in the US.

Sixty-eight more people had been investigated and cleared, Mr Lebrot added. Around a dozen other workers had been notified that they were considered security risks, but remained in their jobs pending questioning.

The unions representing them said some were still cleaning planes and handling baggage.

French authorities have declined to say what the evidence against the workers is, claiming it would compromise security sources, the New York Times reported.

Unions have filed a discrimination lawsuit over the revocations, and at least 10 airport workers who lost their jobs have sued separately to regain their security clearance.

Muslim organisations and human rights groups have accused the authorities of waging an anti-Muslim campaign in a presidential election year.

The crackdown on airport security was apparently stepped up after the publication of a book by the politician Philippe de Villiers in May.

He alleged that clandestine prayer rooms had been set up beneath airport runways and Islamists were poised to put the premises under Muslim Sharia law.

The politician, who opposes Muslim immigration, claimed to have based the book – called The Mosques of Roissy – on intelligence reports.

Last month, the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said 43 baggage handlers at Charles de Gaulle airport had had their security passes withdrawn.

He said he “cannot accept that people with radical practices” work in an airport, adding that it was his “duty to ensure that [workers] do not have any kind of links with radical organisations”.

Mr Sarkozy said officials had also closed “seven Islamist, clandestine and illegal prayer rooms” at Charles de Gaulle and at the second Paris airport, Orly.