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French airport staff sanctioned for keeping Quran in lockers: Report

Security procedures at Charles de Gaulle airport under scrutiny as investigators continue to probe EgyptAir crash
French security forces stand guard at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport (AFP)

A vetting process launched by the French security agency reportedly saw Muslim staff at Charles de Gaulle airport sanctioned for having copies of the Quran in their lockers and refusing to trim their beards.

The procedures were put in place following attacks that hit Paris last January and November, aiming to vet all Muslim staff at French airports.

At Charles de Gaulle, a bustling airport in the capital, more than 60 passes allowing employees to access airside areas of the facility were withdrawn for “inappropriate behaviour,” The Times reported on Saturday.

Among the behaviour that saw employees sanctioned was praying at mosques considered “Salafist” and not shaking hands with female colleagues.

Vetting procedures at Charles de Gaulle, one of the world's largest aviation hubs, have come under renewed scrutiny since EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday after setting off from the airport.

Egyptian authorities have suggested that the plane was likely brought down by an attack rather than a technical fault, and there have been suggestions that staff at the airport could have played a role in the disaster.

All staff at French airports are subject to a criminal record check and are vetted by the security agency before being permitted to work.

However, high staff turnover – and the fact that almost all staff are sub-contracted to work at the airport from several different private companies – meant that procedures at Charles de Gaulle may not have been as stringent in practice as they were in theory.

Despite fears that this could have left the airport vulnerable to attack, an official from the airport workers' union suggested on Saturday that overwork and cost-cutting efforts were a greater risk than the religious beliefs of staff.

Serge Nybelen, general secretary of the airport's union, told The Times that staff only carried out basic checks on planes on stopovers at Charles de Gaulle, as the EgyptAir plane was on Thursday, suggesting that staff would not have found a bomb if it was hidden on the plane during previous stops in Asmara, Tunis or Cairo.  

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