Monday, 19 January 2004
How the USA honors the memory of M.L.K., Jr.
It's a national holiday today in the USA in honor of the birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So what stirring story of the progress of American freedom and racial tolerance do I wake up to?
French fury over US treatment of air staff (free registration and cookie acceptance required)
The article is worth reading in full, but here's the gist:
It seems that the USA is now requiring a personal interview with a TSA specialist, on each arrival in the USA, for foreign-citizen airline staff born in specified countries (all of which have Muslim-majority populations) -- even though they already have multiple-entry professional visas, and could be questioned and investigated as thoroughly as desired before those visas are issued.
It also seems that there are no such TSA specialists in Cincinnati, even though it is an international airport and Delta Air Lines hub, served by regular flights on Delta's "Skyteam" marketing partner, Air France.
Since knowledge of multiple languages is one of the most important qualifications for flight attendants, and many Air France passengers are travelling to and from points beyond France in Africa, Asia, etc., it should be no surprise that many Air France flight attendants were born outside France, and are either immigrants or children of French parents born abroad.
So what has happened? According to the Telegraph (UK):
One Moroccan-born stewardess who flew into the city was prevented from leaving when officials could not conduct her interview. Instead, she was driven for eight hours to Atlanta, nearly 500 miles away, and forced to fly back to France as an ordinary passenger.
And now the TSA has issued a a new directive:
The directive ... advises Air France not to use the foreign-born crew members on flights to Cincinnati because airport staff there lack the facilities needed to conduct the security interviews.
Let's get this straight: the TSA is telling Air France to discriminate against members of its staff -- French citizens holding valid professional visas to the USA -- in assignments to flights to the USA, on the basis of their country of birth.
If an airline or company based in the USA did that, it would constitute illegal discrimination based on national origin.
So the USA is ordering Air France to engage in discriminatory practices that would be illegal for a USA company.
Ah, but they're French, which makes everything different, doesn't it.
Where's Dr. King when we need him?
[Addendum, 20 January 2004: Earlier report with more details (en français) from Le Monde : Le personnel navigant d'Air France soumis à un 'circuit spécifique' d'entrée aux Etats-Unis . And the first report, apparently, from L'Humanité (13 January 2004): Obsession: Ces français indésirables ("La phobie des Etats-Unis sur la sécurité aérienne instaure une discrimination inacceptable vis-à-vis des Français nés hors de France.") The print edition of L'Humanité reportedly also included a reproduction of the TSA directive; if anyone has a copy, please let me know.]Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 19 January 2004, 22:07 (10:07 PM)