28 March 2012
UK activates "voluntary"
scheme to collect personal data on passengers pending further
On 22 August the UK Home Office put out a guidance Circular authorising police, immigration and customs officers to request airline and shipping owners to provide "police intelligence" on passengers: see Circular 44/2002 (pdf). This activates Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (Information) Order 2002.
The measure being put in place obliges companies to hand over data on passengers which they already collect (eg: names and addresses) and follow major objections from airline and shipping companies to maintain information on all passengers on all flights and voyages (see: below). Where a request from the agencies for information which has not already been gathered by a company about a specific flight(s) this must be gathered "by whatever means possible, the most extreme example by handing out paper forms to be completed and collected".
In order to circumvent objections from the industry the Circular
emphasises that: "There will be no systematic attempt to
exercise the power until further consultation has taken place".
This is coded language for saying that as the information is
not currently collected on a systematic basis on all passengers
it obviously cannot be handed over to the law enforcement agencies.
However, the intent to is come to an agreement: "for the
incremental phasing-in" of a universal scheme registering
all passengers on all journeys by air and sea.
This idea was originally put forward by the US authorities at a secret meeting of the EU's high-level Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum on 26 October 2001. The US delegation called for the exchange of data between EU members states and themselves to include:
"intelligence driven data (review of passenger lists), data on persons known to be inadmissible due to involvement in criminal activity (trafficking, dealing in false documents etc)"
The US said it already had a database on visa applications which contained the names of people: "involved in various kinds of activities giving rise to concern". All visa applications to enter the US are checked against the database and "signals" are entered for: green (OK), red (refuse) and yellow (where a person should be checked/vetted further).
The basic aim the USA argues is to exclude all "inadmissibles" from entering the US or the EU by extending use and access to passenger details held on APIS (Advanced Passenger Information System) to cover the entry and exits of all passengers. In particular by introducing the Australian use of APIS:
"for pre-boarding intervention especially in the case of "watch-list" persons"
Ongoing US-EU discussions make clear that the concern is not simply with countering terrorism but to exclude from travelling (this avoiding expensive and time-consuming appeals etc) people thought to have committed or suspected of having committed a crime or who are "inadmissible" (a catch-all category including refugees and asylum-seekers who may have been removed from the EU/US). As the US delegation told the meeting on 26 October 2001:
"there was a consensus in the US on the need for an effective system across the board, not targeted specifically at terrorism, but taking the events of 11 September as the trigger for developing a new approach"
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:
"Why didn't the government make their intention clear when the ATCS Act was rushed through parliament, they knew then that this was the measure they were going to introduce because - along with other EU officials - they had been discussing it in secret EU-US talks from October onwards.
The intention is to introduce "pre-boarding" screening of every passenger on every flight leaving a UK airport to exclude "inadmissibles" from boarding the plane (and possibly to detain or arrest them). The government intends to push this through as an anti-terrorism measure but as the discussions show it will extend to suspected criminals, refugees to be excluded and no doubt "troublemakers" going to an EU-wide protest.
If the UK, and the USA, introduce this measure other EU states and the applicant countries will be under enormous pressure to fall into line"
"Section 119 Passenger information
Section 119 amends paragraph 17 of Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000.
Subsection (2) extends the powers in paragraph (17) to Schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000. It allows an examining officer (a police officer, customs officer or an immigration officer) to make a request to air or ship carriers to provide information about passengers, crew or vehicles belonging to the passengers and crew on any air or ship journey to, from or within the United Kingdom. Previously the powers could only be exercised in respect of ships or aircraft arriving in Great Britain and Northern Ireland from within the CTA.
Subsection (3) extends the powers to require carriers to collect and provide information to apply to goods.
Secondary legislation will define the type of information
to be collected."
1. Statewatch News online coverage: "Secret US-EU meeting: the construction of a common EU-US area of migration, asylum and borders?": Full report
2. Guardian (6.7.02): Airlines warn of huge delays over Blunkett security plan
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