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‘Being Black is Not a Crime:’ Suspicion Was Enough to Have Black Passenger Removed from EasyJet Flight

Mehary Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, 34, telling his story on ITV News London. Photo by ITV News London

Mehary Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, 34, telling his story on ITV News London. Photo by ITV News London

A Black passenger claims he was the victim of racial profiling after being removed from an EasyJet flight headed to London.

Mehary Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, 34, was on his way back to his hometown from Rome when was escorted off the plane by armed police officers. When he asked why he was being removed, he was told that a female passenger claimed she “didn’t feel safe” with him on board.

“When you judge someone because of their appearance it’s wrong,” he said. “It’s way more than just about me and my inconvenience. A person’s skin color is not reasonable suspicion whatsoever.”

 Yemane-Tesfagiorgis, who is of Eritrean descent, was then taken to the Rome Fiumicino airport police station and questioned by authorities. Fifteen hours later, EasyJet booked him on another flight to Gatwick after he was cleared to travel.

He said he felt violated by the whole ordeal and argued that if the passenger felt uncomfortable, then she should have left the plane, not him.

The airline has since apologized to Yemane-Tesfagiorgis and released a statement.

“EasyJet can confirm that flight EZY5258 from Rome Fiumicino to London Gatwick on 29 March 2016 was delayed due to the police requesting that additional security checks were undertaken before departure,” it said. “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority and airlines have to take any security-related concerns seriously.

This isn’t the first time a minority passenger has been removed from an aircraft solely based on suspicion. A similar incident occurred in February when a Nigerian-born Christian from London was ushered off a plane after a fellow passenger reported seeing a text on his phone saying something about ‘prayer.’ Laolu Opebiyi, 40, was trying to set up a conference call prayer with his friends via WhatsApp. To prove his innocence, he was forced to hand over his phone to authorities.

Yemane-Tesfagiorgis is now taking legal action against the airline and demanding more answers from them. He also said the incident has led him to “focus my efforts on my life goal of repatriation to the motherland [Eritrea].”

“The issue has made it abundantly clear to me that I no longer wish to reside in a society that sees a person’s skin color as reasonable suspicion,” he said via a Facebook post.

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