01 August 2016
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Passengers entering, departing or travelling within Ireland by plane will soon be automatically screened and profiled by a new 'Passenger Information Unit' (PIU) to be set up by the government in compliance with the EU Passenger Name Record Directive. According to reports, the Irish PIU will involve the gardai (the Irish police force), customs officials and the revenue office.
Passenger Name Record data is collected by airlines (or travel agents, tour operators or other intermediaries) for the purposes of creating, maintaining and managing individual travel itineraries. It includes name, address, credit card or other payment details and information on onward flights or transfers, amongst other things (see here for more information on the content of PNRs).
The EU Directive mandates the transfer of PNR data from all flights leaving, entering or travelling within the EU to national PIUs for screening against national and international databases and profiles.
The Irish Independent reports that the Irish PIU will "also have unprecedented access to the US government's terror watch list," although this is part of a seperate deal "which will give Irish officials access to state-of-the-art passenger screening software".
"Implementing the hi-tech US computer system in Ireland is part of an agreement which guarantees the future of the visa waiver programme which allows Irish citizens to travel to America without a visa. The new software will also allow Irish security forces to access profiling information collected on terrorist suspects by US state agencies."
See: Ireland flights to be screened for jihadi suspects by powerful new State agency (Irish Independent, link)
And: Irish air passenger records to be monitored to tackle terror (Irish Examiner, link)
The EU has long been funding the estabishment of national PIUs (even before the approval of the PNR legislation), although does not so far appear to have benefitted from EU funding in this respect. For background, see: EU: Travel surveillance: PNR by the back door (Statewatch News Online, October 2014)
The EU PNR Directive (EUR-Lex, link) requires all Member States to establish PIUs for the gathering and processing of PNR data. They are allowed to process the data for a number of purposes, set out in Article 6 of the Directive:
2. The PIU shall process PNR data only for the following purposes:
(a) carrying out an assessment of passengers prior to their scheduled arrival in or departure from the Member State to identify persons who require further examination by the competent authorities referred to in Article 7, and, where relevant, by Europol in accordance with Article 10, in view of the fact that such persons may be involved in a terrorist offence or serious crime;
(b) responding, on a case-by-case basis, to a duly reasoned request based on sufficient grounds from the competent authorities to provide and process PNR data in specific cases for the purposes of preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences or serious crime, and to provide the competent authorities or, where appropriate, Europol with the results of such processing; and
(c) analysing PNR data for the purpose of updating or creating new criteria [profiles] to be used in the assessments carried out under point (b) of paragraph 3 in order to identify any persons who may be involved in a terrorist offence or serious crime.
3. When carrying out the assessment referred to in point (a) of paragraph 2, the PIU may:
(a) compare PNR data against databases relevant for the purposes of preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences and serious crime, including databases on persons or objects sought or under alert, in accordance with Union, international and national rules applicable to such databases; or
(b) process PNR data against pre-determined criteria.
The Irish government has been a long-standing supporter of the PNR Directive, including its extension to intra-EU flights. See: Statement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Mr. Alan Shatter T.D. Proposed EU Directive on the use of PNR data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorism and serious crime - Dáil Éireann 19 April 2011(Department of Justice and Equality, link)
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