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Smuggled weapons raise fresh concerns over French aviation security

Text by FRANCE 24 , News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-06

Undercover journalists filming a special report for a French television channel successfully carried a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol onto two separate internal flights, reigniting the debate about security in France's airports.

Two journalists have questioned the robustness of aviation security throughout France after successfully boarding domestic flights from two of the country’s busiest airports armed with a weapon concealed in their hand-luggage.

Linda Bendali and Mathieu Lere, filming a special report for France 2 television channel, boarded a morning flight from Charles de Gaulle to Nice on November 8 and returned to Paris from Marseille airport without being stopped by any of the passenger screening controls put in place by airport authorities.

What makes the report so alarming is both the ease with which the 9-mm semi-automatic handgun was disassembled, placed into two separate pieces of hand-luggage and carried onto the plane, and the incredibly close occurrence of the incidents, both happening within hours of each other.
 
The report gave added weight to fears that France’s outsourcing of airport security to private companies has resulted in security check points being operated by staff who are not adequately trained in weapon detection. Critics say airport security staff often do not know what items they should be hunting for, most having not even seen or been in contact with weapons physically.
 
Linda Bendali, one of the journalists involved in the report, told French media: “The security agents were attentive - that wasn't the problem. It was a lack of understanding of what they were supposed to be looking out for. They are not very familiar with dangerous weapons.”
 
While police and airport authorities refused to comment without having seen the video, police unions lamented “lower security levels” since private firms took over security.
 
“This case, if true, shows the room for improvement within the system and the need for police presence during the training of airport security officers,” said Patrice Ribeiro, secretary-general of the police trade union Synergie-Officiers, who had not yet viewed the report. “But we cannot go back; the police cannot be a substitute for private security firms at airports,” he added.
 
Another police union went further, however, calling for an “audit of airport security”. Nicolas Compte, head of the Unité SGP union, said: “This demonstrates a real problem today, that outsourcing security to private companies has led to lower levels of security.”
 
Full-body scanning, recently implemented in the United States, is not a common fixture in European countries, where it has been the subject of controversy regarding its safety and ethics.
 
 
Envoyé Special is broadcast on Thursday 6 January at 8.35pm on France 2.
 
 

Date created : 2011-01-06

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