Travellers who feel they have been racially or religiously profiled at airports in the States can now file a complaint with the government in real-time using their mobile phone.
The Sikh Coalition – a civil rights group which represents more than 250,000 Sikhs in the States – launched a mobile app on Monday called FlyRights.
It says that the new app is a response to increasing complaints from Sikhs who claim they have been routinely subjected to additional checks at airport security since 9/11.
Amardeep Singh, a founder of the Sikh Coalition said that some Sikhs are also made to remove their turbans, which are worn for religious reasons.
The group said it wants the app – which is available for Androids and iPhones – to help Sikhs, Muslims, south Asians, Arabs, Latinos and other ethnic minorities who might share concerns about racial profiling at airport security.
To file a complaint, the app has a “report” button. It asks questions such as gender, race, the basis of the complaint and name of the airport. Travellers then press the “submit” button and can share their complaint via social media via the “share” button.
The app – which also contains information on TSA security screening procedures – forwards complaints directly to the agency.
The TSA said it would be accepting complaints filed through the mobile app.
The agency denies that it profiles passengers based race, ethnicity or religion and adds that it continues to work with communities, including The Sikh Coalition to help address their concerns, according to a statement.
But Singh from the Sikh coalition wants to see better data on instances of racial profiling at airports.
“The TSA says it does not profile. This application will allow us to better assess whether that’s true,” he said. “All travellers now have an easy way of speaking to their government on the issue of airport profiling.
“For too long the TSA has kept a long leash on its screeners, telling them not to profile, but taking no effective measures to stop it.”
According to data from the Department of Homeland security, 11 people in the US filed complaints about unfair treatment and profiling in the first half of 2011, the latest period in which data is available. This compares to hundreds of complaints received by the Sikh Coalition, Singh added.
The TSA has a section on its own website where travellers can file a complaint if they feel they have been discriminated against at airport security.