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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Airport immigration staff accused
Ken Livingstone
Ken's comments have been attacked by union leaders
Ken Livingstone has launched a scathing attack on immigration staff at Heathrow Airport after accusing them of treating foreign travellers in a racist manner.

The Mayor of London branded the treatment of travellers from China and India a disgrace.

Union leaders said his comments were completely unacceptable and would be greeted with alarm by workers.

Mr Livingstone was addressing an economic conference discussing the need to embrace new business from abroad.

Mr Livingstone said: "Whenever I'm in India or China meeting business people or diplomats, again and again their complaint is that they have big business people coming through the airport being treated as though they are going to sneak off and do a bit of cockle picking or something."

He added: "We should stop treating them as though they're potentially all illegal immigrants."

Immigration staff at Heathrow work for the Home Office and the union that represents them says the mayor's comments will be viewed poorly by its members.

"I think they will be alarmed and disturbed that Ken's made this generalisation," said Mark Hammond from the Public & Commercial Services Union. " I think they will be disgusted."

Ken Livingston has accused immigration staff of being racist

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