Pune: A lady passenger hailing from Pune was harassed at Frankfurt airport while returning to India from the USA as security personnel held her at gunpoint and questioned about a laptop in her possession, which tested positive for explosives.
52-year-old Amrita P (name changed) is a microbiologist and was on an official tour to the USA via Frankfurt. She left Pune for Washington on the Pune-Frankfurt UA 8823 flight and returned to Pune via the same route on flight number UA 8817.
According to her, when she landed in Frankfurt (in transit) on her return journey, she was crossing the security check. “As per norms, I had removed my mobile phone/laptop from its respective case and kept it in the trays available for security clearance. After crossing the clearance, as I was picking up my things from the counter, a security guard approached me and asked me if he could check my laptop,” she told Sakal Times.
“I obviously said ‘yes’. He had a piece of paper, which looked similar to a litmus paper. I do not know what it was. He swiped my laptop on the exterior as well as on the interior and placed the paper under some machine/scanner. After about 1-2 minutes, two policemen with rifles came up to me and started questioning me. I was confused as I was neither aware of what was happening nor did they tell me anything,” she narrated.
“They asked me if I could speak English and then started talking to me in English. They sought my passport and asked me the reason I was travelling. They asked me about the ownership of the laptop, whether mine or the company’s. This went on for approx 3-4 minutes. I finally asked the security person what the problem was. He said that my laptop tested positive for explosives! As I was talking to the security personnel, one of the policemen was talking in German on his phone,” she said.
“On enquiring what was to be done, he said the police would decide. There were a thousand things running through my head, including tweeting Sushma Swaraj for help! Finally, the policeman approached me and said that I could go - just like that!!!! Totally confused and upset, I picked up my things and headed for my next connecting flight. When I reached Pune and picked up my check-in bag, the lock was broken. Fortunately, nothing was taken from it,” she said.
However, experts say that airport security across the globe is getting stringent day-by-day to counter the threat of terrorism. Safety of passengers is their highest priority. “One needs to be extremely careful while not only carrying but also using cosmetics, hand sanitisers, powders, creams, etc which contain certain chemicals/material that are also used in the preparation of explosives.
“The security informed the passenger that after maybe she used/applied any of the above products and then worked on the laptop. The material/chemical was transferred to the laptop. Hence, it tested positive,” said the expert.
“The level of security measures and procedures are based on the threat perception and varies from country to country. The metal detectors, door frames or hand-held devices and x-ray/physical check of passenger baggage or use of sniffer dogs have become common today. Countries with a high threat such as the USA, Israel, Germany, France, the UK adopt additional security measures such as passenger scrutiny and profiling, use of body scanners, even strip searches if required,” said Dhairyashil Vandekar, Aviation Expert and Analyst.