Who controls Greece? Private security companies?
8 May 2012
To: Mr George Nikou
From: Dr. William Mallinson
Dear Mr. Nikou,
I am writing to you to put in an official complaint about the behaviour of a member of the Brinks security staff, a Mr. Gayboy, at Corfu Airport on Thursday 3 May, at approximately 19.25 hours, some thirty five minutes before my Aegean Air flight A3 407 to Athens. I also have some questions to put to you, for which I should be grateful for a considered response. Before doing that, I should provide you with the following background.
Having shown my Greek identity card and boarding pass to a Brinks official (which I found odd, since policemen usually do this job), I passed through the electronic security gate. There was no bleep. Mr. Gayboy then stepped forward to search me. I had put my watch, belt and jacket through the scanner, and was wearing only moccasins, underpants, close-fitting jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, the latter not tucked in.
Mr. Gayboy lifted my shirt, inserted his fingers down the front of my jeans, almost reaching my pubic hairs, and began to work his way around the front of my waist. At this point, I asked him to stop, as I was not looking for a boyfriend, since I was not a homosexual. I said that the regulations did not permit private staff to put their hands down men’s trousers, but he disagreed. I then asked a policeman sitting a few yards away if Mr. Gayboy was allowed to put his fingers down my front. I was already feeling sufficiently harassed that I was unaware as to what exactly the policeman said, but I gained the impression that he appeared to condone the sexual harassment. Perhaps he was confused. I asked Mr.Gayboy whether I should take my trousers off for him. He then asked me to turn around, whereupon he put his fingers down the back of my trousers, and continued his dirty groping. He also squeezed my left buttock. I asked him whether he was a homosexual, explaining that I was not, whereupon he said that he was ‘two men’; he then had to be told by his two colleagues not to attack me. To my extreme embarrassment, this sexual harassment happened in the full view of other passengers. I found the whole episode distressing.
When I turned to leave, a Brinks female, who had observed the proceedings, asked me to open my bag, whereupon I took everything out of it. She refused to put the contents back. Strangely, and unprofessionally, she did not even ask me to unzip the two side containers (which contained my running shoes). So what was the point of her ‘search’?
I said that I would do a ‘kataggelia’, using the Greek, whereupon the policeman politely asked for my passport. He seemed surprised when I produced my Greek identity card, but took it, and then proceeded to write something down, on a sheet of blank white paper (!). I did not ask him why he did this, but wrote down his number, in his full view. His police number is 2----. He was not impolite, but I noticed that he did not ask for the identity card of Mr.Gayboy, at least in my presence. This strikes me as prejudiced, even with racist connotations. Perhaps he needs to explain himself. Most of the whole episode was in English, with bits of Greek. For example, I think that I used the word ‘pousti’, since someone who puts his hand down men’s trousers and squeezes men’s buttocks is probably one, at least in my reasoned opinion.
I should therefore be grateful if you would kindly do two things: first, investigate my complaint, and ensure that Mr. Gayboy is not allowed to sexually harass men again, particularly in public, and second, to kindly let me have an answer to the following questions:
a) Are Brinks staff allowed to put their hands down men’s trousers, particularly in public?
b) What should I do if this happens again?
c)Are Brinks staff allowed to check travellers’ documentation, or should it be the police, in whom I generally have more confidence than inadequately trained private security staff?
d)Was this sexual harassment recorded on a security camera, as I think it should have been? If so, then this must be viewed.
e)Is it up to private security staff to replace items in a bag?
f)Should private security staff who ask to look at the contents of a bag ignore the side compartments?
I have been coming to Corfu regularly since 2004, as a lecturer of the Ionian University, and such blatantly unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour and sexual harassment has never occurred in my presence at Corfu Airport. I am travelling there again soon, and hope that these people will not try to harass me sexually again.
I look forward to your response.
Dr. William Mallinson
Author, journalist and
Lecturer, British History, Literature and Culture,
Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting,
PS Please excuse my having written in English, but it is better than my Greek.
3:37 PM (2 hours ago)
Dear Mr. Mallinson,
We are sorry for the late reply due to heavy workload.
Upon receival of your email, we communicated your letter to the airport Manager of Corfu Airport and asked for investigation on the matter. After the collection of all relevant information, the Airport Manager conveyed to us the reports of the persons working for the private security company (BRINK'S) who were involved in the process of your security screening. The conclusion derived from the reports was that all procedures applied during the screening of you as a person and your cabin bags were implemented according to the requirements of the relevant Security Regulations.
We understand that sometimes it is not easy for everyone to accept the process of physical search but still it is a procedure that airports are required to follow by security regulations. All parts of the body to be searched are described in detail in the European regulations and the security staff is trained and obliged to follow them, otherwise it is a violation of regulations. Your remarks are under consideration and our authority has given specific instructions to the airport to make every effort to create the less possible inconvenience to the passengers during the implementation of the controls ensuring the satisfactory level of security.
HCAA/ AVSEC Division
Dear Mr. Nikou,
Thank you for your reply to my e-mail about the sexual harassment which I had to endure at Corfu airport at the hands of inadequately trained private (Brinks) staff. I note your reply, but consider it far too vague to be credible. You do not appear to have actually answered any of my six questions, in particular that as to whether private staff are allowed to put their hands down men's trousers, particularly in public. I should be grateful if you could kindly endeavour to elicit specific answers to my specific questions. Otherwise, your reply could well be construed as condoning sexual harassment.
I look forward to specific answers to my specific questions which, as I am sure you appreciate, are in the public interest.
Dr. William Mallinson