UK police admit telling woman to remove hijab at airport breached her human rights

Admission was made in out-of-court settlement after an incident at Heathrow

A view of the near empty departure area at London's Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 departure, Thursday March 12, 2020. As a virus pandemic spreads globally, China and other parts of Asia are scrambling to prevent it from coming back to where it broke out. Everyone arriving in Beijing must quarantine for 14 days, and South Korea is screening arriving passengers from more countries as the number of cases rises across Europe. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.  (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
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London’s police have admitted it was wrong to force a woman to remove her hijab at an airport, after a legal case that was settled out of court.

The case was brought by a woman who sought a judicial review against the Metropolitan Police after she was told to remove her headscarf by two officers at Heathrow Airport.

The settlement, seen by The Guardian, shows the Met conceded that asking the woman, Asiyah, to remove her hijab was a breach of her human rights and her right to religious observance.

Asiyah’s statement in the settlement said she was travelling to Bahrain with her family when officers asked her to remove her headscarf because she was not identifiable with it on.

The officers were allowed to make the request under a counterterrorism tool known as Schedule 7, which permits police to stop and search people without grounds for suspicion.

Asiyah said the incident, which occurred in October 2018, was embarrassing for her.

“For any woman who does not wear hijab, it would be the equivalent of two men telling a woman to remove her top so they can take pictures of her,” she said.

“The fact that they were men insisting I did this made it even worse and embarrassing for me.

“It is part of the purpose of the hijab to preserve yourself from the gaze of men.”

It is not known whether the UK government plans to review its guidance on Schedule 7 to officers at British airports.

The UK Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

“The government’s priority is the safety and security of the UK, and the use of Schedule 7 powers is a vital tool for the police,” it said.

“The decision to examine an individual using Schedule 7 is operational, undertaken independently by police, and arbitrary or discriminatory use of the powers is prohibited.”