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Two men removed from a Monarch Airlines flight from Malaga to Manchester last Wednesday were targeted because of passenger concerns over their behaviour and the fact that they may have been speaking Arabic, the BBC reports.

Monarch Airlines said passengers had "demanded the men were removed because they were acting suspiciously". Passenger Heath Schofield explained to the BBC: "We all started boarding the flight. Our daughter noticed a couple of guys that were perhaps acting a bit strange. They went to the front of the queue, went to the back of the queue, and then they went and sat down by themselves.

"Anyway, we got on the plane and we boarded and it became apparent after we were already supposed to be flying that several of the passengers had refused to board the craft. A few rumours went round, it was a little bit like Chinese whispers, and then some more people decided they were getting off."

Schofield's wife Jo added: "We still don't know what was said, or whether it was anything to be alarmed about. A lot of mums were trying to calm the children down - they were getting quite panicky because of what they'd seen on the telly.

"It became apparent that the reason that some of the people didn't board the plane was because somebody had overheard the gentlemen in question speaking - I think it was Arabic."

Spanish police subsequently boarded the plane, took the men's passports and removed them from the aircraft. They were questioned for several hours but later released. They flew back to the UK later in the week.

Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood described the fact that the pair "seemed to have been judged on their skin colour" as "disgraceful". He said: "That is not what we want. The colour of your skin shouldn't identify what you are. It is a sad state of affairs that that has happened." ®

Bootnote

Years ago, I flew Monarch Airlines from London to Malaga and found myself sitting next to a very amiable Iranian who offered me the ham from his lunch because "Persians are not big on ham". Nowadays, this suspiciouly friendly behaviour would probably lead passengers to suspect he was about to detonate a red mercury-based nuclear device and accordingly demand his immediate tazering and transfer to Guantanamo Bay.

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