US demands EU airlines and ships provide passengers list (1)
01 February 2003
The USA has told the European Commission that that all transatlantic carriers (ships and planes) from the EU provide full passenger lists to them prior to departure or face hefty fines by the end of February. There will be a meeting between Commission officials and US Customs agents (who now come under the US Department for Homeland Security) next week. However, the collection and exchange of such data by EU companies is not possible under the EC Directive on data protection.
The USA does not have a data protection law. Moreover, as negotiations over an US-Europol agreement on mutual assistance in judicial matters has shown, the USA has no intention of introducing such a law nor does it know how many of its agencies have access to personal data. Personal details on passengers could be passed to a myriad of agencies in the USA for other surveillance purposes and further exchanged with other countries.
On 4 January the US Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalisation Service, published a new rule on "Manifest Requirements Under Section 231 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Act of 2002." This:
"requires the submission of arrival and departure manifests electronically in advance of an aircraft or vessel's arrival in or departure from the United States"
The penalty for failure to comply is:
"$1,000 per violation.. on a carrier for each person for whom an accurate and full manifest is not submitted"
The list must also include crew members and "any other occupants transported".
In order to put this new measure into practice the USA is extending APIS (Advance Passenger Information System) currently operated by two governments - Australia and New Zealand. The information to be supplied must cover: complete name, date of birth, citizenship, sex, passport number and country of issuance, country of residence, alien registration (where applicable), address while in the USA, and:
"other such information as the Attorney General determines is necessary for the identification of persons transported, for the enforcement of immigration laws, and to protect public safety and national security"
The US Attorney General has already decided that the data provided should include adding a "Passenger Name Record (PNR) locator or a unique identifier or reservation number".
Passenger manifests must be sent to the USA authorities:
"no later than 15 minutes after the flight departs.. this will allow the Service to check the manifest against the appropriate security databases prior to arrival"
Airlines flying out of the USA have to supply passenger manifests 15 minutes before the departure of the flight to allow vetting by security agencies - this is how the Australian APIS system works so it might expected in the future that the USA will make similar demands on EU airlines so that suspected "security" risks can be refused boarding to the plane.
Shipping companies have to submit a manifest not less than 96 hours before arrival in USA or 24 hours if the journey is short.
Personal data on passengers will be exchanged in a standard format known as: the UN Electronic Data Interchange for Administration (EDIFACT) and:
"the governments of Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom all support the conversion to APIS UN EDIFACT format in an effort to establish worldwide format standard for the electronic transmission of arrival and departure manifests"
This is one of a whole series of demands that have been made on the EU by the USA in the name of their "war on terrorism." For example see: EU member state by-pass Commission to give US access to containers at ports
The UK is cited as being in favour of a world-wide APIS system but when the Home Secretary suggested it .. there were fierce objections by the airlines and civil liberties groups, see: U