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“No Scan / No Fly” Rule Illegal Says EC

November 6, 2013

The “No Scan/No Fly” Rule is ILLEGAL

Scrap the Scanners can now exclusively reveal that the ever dithering European Commission has finally concluded that the UK government is guilty of breaking the law with its No Scan/No Fly rule at 12 UK airports.

In an email to this group, the Commission has stated that the UK is currently breaking a 2011 European law that insists on airline passengers having the right to opt for an alternative screening method other than passing through the controversial full-body scanners.

The government was informed by the Commission on the 8th of July of the illegality of its overzealous security practice and has been given until the 31st of December to comply with the European legislation. What happens next is in the UK’s court.

The polemical airport security rule that forbids those passengers who refuse to pass through a full-body scanner from boarding their flight has been in place since early 2010, while most other countries that mandate body scanner use have allowed their airports to offer a pat-down alternative. Currently, Australia is the only other country that employs a system of compulsory body scanning.

The EU legislation, which came into effect in late 2011, also prohibitted the use of the backscatter xray scanners. While the UK government did eventually rid their airports of this type of technology, it is unclear to why they have not yet come into line with the mandated right to offer an alternative screening method.

Manchester airport had originally been encouraged by the government to extend its investment in backscatter scanners, a technology with a reported lifespan of 5 years, but were forced to scrap their 19 scanners after little more than one year of use. The EC decision could further embarrass the UK Department for Transport as it has recently mandated the use of Millimetre Wave scanners at an extra 9 UK airports and, given the option, it is doubtful that most passengers would opt for the scanners over a conventional pat-down.

If the UK decides to obey the European rules on scanner use, we may begin to see the end of full-body scanners altogether at UK airports. When Manchester was forced to scrap their 19 backscatter scanners, they replaced them with only 3 of the millimetre wave type scanners, which suggests that the airport may be returning to more conventional and less intrusive screening methods.



13 Comments leave one →
  1. Frustrated traveller permalink
    November 6, 2013 9:34 pm

    That’s good news. Thanks for the update.

  2. Frequent traveller permalink
    November 7, 2013 1:11 am

    Very good news but must correct you on one thing: the ‘pat-down’ search has been replaced with a much more intrusive search that involves caressing genital areas and a hands-down-pants search at UK airports, which is an even bigger breach of human rights. Stansted airport meanwhile, operates a two-tier approach to security: women in burkas do not receive such a rigorous search as those in western clothing. ie they are not required to lift or remove their burka or submit to the hands-down-pants search. It’s discriminatory and frankly scandalous.

    • November 7, 2013 6:58 am

      I agree. Stansted has long had an overzealous approach to searches, but moreover, their security staff are, in my opinion, poorly trained and lack sufficient knowledge of procedures, such as what liquids and solids are permitted and which are not. I have been a long time arguing that what we need at airports is a return to professionalism rather than low-wage, temporary thugs in cheap uniforms.

      The scanners are the first step. We are near to winning that battle. Once they have been scrapped, intrusive pat-downs are next.

    • November 7, 2013 6:58 am

      The issue of whether or not wearers of burkas are patted-down equally or not, if true, is all our fault. If security screeners really allow burka wearers, turban wearers or even nuns to pass through security points without the same invasive searches everyone else receives, then I imagine it due to security staff fearing possible legal reprisals. What we all need to do is ensure that we all speak out when we feel our rights are being violated and ensure that the airports understand that they will have to answer to us in court if they take their security screening too far. By just letting it fly and doing nothing, this thuggery will just worsen each time we travel. If your rights have been violated at the airport, you must make a formal complaint and you must report it to the police. Everyone has a civic and legal duty to report crimes and the violation of your fundamental human rights is a serious crime. If ever you need help with these issues in the UK, please contact the Islamic Human Rights Council, regardless of whether you are Muslim or not, as they are currently looking into the question of rights violations of air passengers. Also, contact your local MP and, of course, let us know here about your experiences.

  3. alexjustsayno permalink
    November 7, 2013 12:31 pm

    Thanks for this Sam. I wonder if it would be worthwhile taking the DfT to court for an infringement of my human rights as I was denied boarding at heathrow 2 years ago for refusing the scanner on health grounds. The funny thing was when I called BA to tell them what had happened and ask for a refund they specifically asked why I refused going through the scanner. When I said I refused on health grounds they issued me with a full refund straight away. Alex Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2013 12:44:23 +0000 To:

    • November 7, 2013 3:00 pm

      Hi Alex
      Thanks for getting in touch. I was thinking about doing the same, even though I have not directly suffered the same as you. I have been advsed to go through the European Commission’s official complaints procedure. I have your email so I will forward you the email I received from them.

      Also, the Islamic Human Rights Council is currently looking for people who have suffered at the hands of airport security, so you might like to get in touch with them too.
      Keep in touch!

  4. November 8, 2013 9:04 am

    The only reason Australia currently has a no scan, no fly policy is because the government back flipped on allowing an opt out *after* all the public consultation and operational tests when they tabled the bill to allow them, then *ignored* every single public submission to the inquires on the bill.

    • November 8, 2013 9:43 am

      The official trials and evaluations of scanners in Australia were very revealing and should be made known to a much wider audience. For example, they highlighted the ineffectiveness of the technology and also taught us how the Automatic Threat Detection system that they have installed works. According to the reports, the scanner operator must choose a male or female option on the scanning software to account for differing genital shapes. What this reveals to us is that the software relies on a template figure to compare with the passenger’s body. That is to say, if your body shape matches the template in the programme, you will pass through the scanner with no problems. However, if you do not match the template figure (ie. Most people in the world), then you will be taken aside for a further pat-down. This explains why Hamburg airport police had an 80% failure rate in their scanner trials. Scanner use is therefore discriminatory against anyone who doesn’t have a Barbie or Ken shaped body.

      What I cannot understand though is why there has not been public and press outcry over the Australian government’s decision on scanners. It is abundantly clear that they have ignored their own advisors and experts and bowed to the lobbyists.

  5. Anne permalink
    November 8, 2013 2:44 pm

    I’m so scared reading all the research around the Backscatter scanners. I’m 8 weeks pregnant and I will be flying from Manchester in 2 weeks and don’t want to risk going through machines that have no proof that are 100% safe for me and my baby. Any suggestions? What can I do??

    • November 8, 2013 3:49 pm

      Don’t worry too much Anne. Manchester were forced to scrap their 19 backscatter machines last year. They have been replaced with only 3 Millimeter Wave scanners, which are said to pose less of a health threat.
      You might like to consult your doctor or midwife before flying. My aunt, who has a pacemaker, carries a note from her cardiologist every time she travels and has managed to evade the scanners with it ever since. Also, if you are feeling particularly cheeky, you could try contacting the airport prior to travelling and asking for wheelchain assistance – wheelchairs don’t fit in the scanners.
      Good luck and let us inow how you get on.

      • Anne permalink
        November 8, 2013 4:58 pm

        Thanks so much, I think the wheelchair would be too much of a hassle, I travelled from Manchester back in July and I remember going through the big machines where you put your feet on the marks and I thought they were the same machines. I really hope they new ones are not that harmful, I will hate myself if I end up harming my baby.
        thanks again

  6. Gaz permalink
    June 29, 2014 10:49 am

    Does anyone know if MAN still has three millimetre wave scanners in place?

    • June 29, 2014 10:58 am

      Hi Gaz
      MAN replaced their 19 backscatter scanners with just 3 millimetre wave scanners. However, reports from passengers suggest they are not being used. Nonetheless, if in the unlikely circumstance you are selected for a scan, don’t forget that you can now opt for a hand search. According to European rules, this search has to be carried out in public. In spite of this the UK government continues defying EU rules and directing airports to carry out searches in a private room. So, passengers selected for a search should insist on maintaining the search in the public eye (probably to intimidate passengers into opting for a scan). If I get time this week, I’ll dig out the EU rules on this and post them here.

      Good luck!


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