Virgin Atlantic, the airline that stopped Australian human rights lawyer Jen Robinson last Thursday and told her she was on an “inhibited list” that required approval from the Australian High Commission to return home, has told Crikey that “security services” were responsible for the incident and directed further questions to the British Home Office.

The stopping of Robinson, who was later allowed to board her Heathrow flight to Sydney via Hong Kong without any contact being made with Australia House, caused a furore that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says prompted the government to request the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – initially suspected by Robinson of being behind the incident – to seek an explanation from the UK.

The term “inhibited” is used by the US Department of Homeland Security to refer to passengers who should not be given access to aircraft or “sterile” areas of international airports without additional on-the-spot government approval.

Virgin’s statement appears to sheet home responsibility to UK security services. The company’s Australian office told Crikey that its UK head office had advised:

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what happened with Ms Robinson was absolutely a matter of security so therefore something we can’t really comment on. As the airline we don’t make decisions on security issues like this, we only act on a response from the security services which is what happened with Ms Robinson last week. This was not an airline issue, it was a security issues and something that security services or the Home Office could perhaps comment on?

Last Thursday evening ABC journalist Jeff Waters contacted the UK Border Agency and was told that the stopping of Robinson was nothing to do with UK authorities. Clearly Virgin’s statement contradicts that. We now have DFAT, the UK Border Agency and the airline all blaming another party for Robinson being stopped.

A response is being sought from the Home Office.

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