Are airport officials rummaging through your bags without permission?

Sinead Moore
luggage lined up at the baggage claime in an airport
luggage lined up at the baggage claime in an airport

Airport officials are having a sneaky peak in your bags without telling you, a watchdog has revealed.

Customs staff have permission to search baggage before it is placed on the carousel in an attempt to stop drugs, weapons and other contraband entering the country.

According to the Daily Mail, border staff have been caught searching passengers' bags without proper authorisation.

Only one third of searches turn up suspect items, the other two thirds of cases are repacked and the passenger is not informed about the search. So if you have ever opened your suitcase and had a feeling someone has been rummaging through it then you could be right.

Some officials even confessed to reading confidential legal and medical records found in passengers' cases - despite the fact that this is against the law, report the Telegraph.

Officials can request passengers open their luggage if they are stopped while walking through customs. These searches take place in front of the passenger.

Covert luggage searches, however, take place before suitcases are placed on the carousel for passengers to collect.

Details of the searches emerged in a report published yesterday by John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

Mr Vine said the use of baggage searches without the traveller's permission - which must be approved by a senior manager - could be "intrusive" but were necessary to protect Britain's border.

From April to September last year hundreds of searches were carried out at regional airports across Britain including Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Luton and Manchester airports.

Mr Vine added: "Luton airport had been operating these baggage examinations without any authorisation procedures or assurance from managers."

Staff at Edinburgh airport admitted examining confidential material.

Mr Vine said it was a "cause for concern" that there was no guidance on how staff should treat searches where sensitive, confidential material was discovered.

He called for improvement including urgent guidance for staff on how the powers should be used.

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