Taxi drivers get Prevent training to spy on passengers

Picture by GLENN COPUS

Taxi drivers across the UK are being trained to spy on their passengers as part of the UK Government’s controversial counter-terrorism Prevent policy.

Dartford Council is the latest to introduce mandatory “knowledge” exams for taxi drivers, while councils in Yorkshire and Lancashire already run the training programs.

The schemes have been allegedly so successful that some local authorities are considering extending it to employees at takeaways, restaurants and bars, the Middle East Eye reports.

Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire runs the controversial program, which involves mandatory training for new drivers applying for a taxi licence, while existing drivers are made to take the course every three years.

“Taxi drivers can play a really important role. They can be our eyes and ears,” Neighbourhoods and Cohesion Manager Jo Richmond told Middle East Eye.

“It is about helping them to understand when they may need to act.”

Sign up for regular updates straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on the latest news and updates from around the Muslim world!

A Local Government Association document published in December 2015 describes how Calderdale provided Prevent training to 1,000 licensed taxi drivers in four-hour sessions over three months.

“Taxi drivers have a unique reach into society. Ferrying passengers around, they get to see and hear things that the statutory agencies never could,” the document, entitled Council’s Role in Preventing Extremism, says.

Manchester City Council issued a handbook in 2015 which contained a section on terrorism and extremism.

“The handbook has been developed to raise awareness about reporting crime and is an opportunity to encourage drivers who are the eyes and ears of our community to report intelligence and any suspicious activity to police,” said Chief Inspector Laura Marler of the Greater Manchester Police.

Drivers are advised to trust their instincts in reporting “suspicious activity”.

A case study in the handbook describes a teenage girl on the way to the airport speaking on the phone with someone about meeting them on the border of Syria.

Another example describes a driver discovering a mobile phone left in the taxi with a Nazi symbol as a screensaver.

Wayne Casey of the National Taxi Association criticised the controversial program, stating that trade organisations and unions had not been consulted in developing the courses.

“Not only have we got to spot potential sex offenders, now we have got to spot terrorists. There are all kinds of courses and schemes that taxi drivers have to take on and they just seem to be getting imposed. At the end of the day we are only driving cabs,” he said.

Add your comments below

Previous articleMuslims more unpopular than any other group in USA
Next articleMuslim designer makes history with hijab collection at New York Fashion Week