UK finds Dhaka airport security ‘faulty’
The United Kingdom has recommended that the authorities prepare a time-bound work plan to ensure a “sustainable security system” at the Dhaka international airport by recruiting necessary manpower and ensuring the required logistics.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the security system, the country feared that regular flights of the Dhaka-London route might be hampered.
Officials in the ministries of foreign affairs and tourism and civil aviation told the Prothom Alo, the delegation of UK aviation safety agency who visited twice Bangladesh in the last November and December expressed these apprehensions and put forth the recommendations.
The officials said Bangladesh will submit its work plan to the UK today (Monday). The UK wants the airport security to be ensured in line with the work plan within the next three months.
They said western countries are attaching importance to increasing security in the airports following the destruction of a Russian plane in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. All 224 passengers and crew on board the Russian passenger plane were killed when the plane heading to St Petersburg from Egypt's popular Sharm el-Sheikh resort crashed in the blast of bomb implanted by terrorists.
Since then the UK’s Department of Transport was putting pressure on different countries including Bangladesh to beef up security in the airport.
Dhaka Shahjalal International Airport has been on the list of 38 airports of 20 countries. The UK’s aviation safety agency prepared the list of the airports which, it said, are a security risk.
When contacted, civil aviation minister Rashed Khan Menon told the Prothom Alo that the government has taken cognizance of the UK government’s recommendations.
He said the government is setting up a special force called Airport Security Force to ensure security at the airport with some 250 members of the air force, police, Rapid Action Battalion and the Armed Police Battalion.
The minister said the members of the Airport Security Force will be given international standard training.
The minister said, “The UK has asked us to chalk out the plan when we requested it to provide us with necessary training and logistics. We will send a feasible plan by Monday.”
UK’s aviation safety agency’s Delhi-based officer John Lovsey along with other officials of the UK government visited Dhaka airport twice, on 11 November and 15 December to check the security measures taken by the airport authorities.
The UK government official inspected how the passengers enter and leave the airport, how their baggage are scanned and tagged, and how the ground handling workers take the baggage to the plane.
The UK delegation also talked to the airport officials.
After the trip, the UK report termed the security of the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as extremely flimsy and said there was no skilled manpower to operate the scanning machines.
The scanning machines were also faulty. Anything could be brought to any country through these machines and their operators, the report added.
The report, however, recommended several security measures for the airport including people’s entry and leaving, baggage management, explosive detecting system and security for serving food in flights.
Sources in the civil aviation and tourism ministry said that the airport authorities increased security measures in the airport after the UK showed its concerns.
The airport authorities have already installed equipment to scan and detect explosives. Security measures have been strengthened during the departure of passengers, as well.
A three-layer security system is being followed for the passengers of Dhaka-London flights.
A senior official of the civil aviation and tourism ministry said the government is committed to ensure fool-proof security at three airports of the country including the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.