Statewatch article: RefNo# 25619
UK takes lead on surveillance of passengers
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 13 no 5 August-October 2003
“Security and immigration” risks to be stopped from boarding

The UK government is planning to introduce an "Authority to Carry" scheme which will see all passengers entering or leaving the country being checked against police and security databases to see if they are a "known security or immigration risk". If they are identified as a "risk" they will not be allowed to board the plane. The only country to currently operate such a system - the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) - is Australia. The USA too is planning to introduce the same system.

The UK plan came to light when it sought to amend a draft EU proposal by calling for passenger data to be handed over before a flight has taken off rather than when it takes off:

[The proposal] does not support the board/not board principle of the UK "Authority to Carry" scheme, which is currently being developed and for which there is already provision in UK legislation. It relies on carriers transmitting passenger information at the time of check-in and will enable a check to be made against Home Office (Interior Ministry) databases and, in the event that the passenger is identified as a known security or immigration risk may result in authority to carry the passenger being denied. (EU document: 13363/03, 15.10.03)

The UK legislation referred to is the Immigration (Passenger Information) Order 2000 (based on an amendment to the 1971 Immigration Act in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, Section 18). The Order requiring information on passengers to be handed over applies to ships and aircraft which are "expected" to arrive in or leave the UK. Passenger information can be requested on a specific plane or for "all the carrier's (ships or) aircraft". A "request" placed on a carrier "continues in force" until withdrawn or renewed (which it can be every six months). The data required is not restricted to "foreign nationals", it covers all passengers including UK and EU citizens. Up to now the power has only been used for specific flights or flights from and to specific destinations (eg: Pakistan).

The EU proposal

In February the Spanish government put forward a proposal for an EU Directive requiring all airlines to collect and pass over passenger data for vetting. The purpose of the proposal is to combat "illegal immigration" and in the first draft said data should be gathered on all "people" arriving in the EU. On 25 June the Permanent Representative of the UK government in Brussels wrote to the Council of the European Union formally stating that the UK intended to participate in the proposal. On 9 July a number of other EU governments successfully argued that the term "people" should be replaced by "foreign nationals" thus excluding checks on EU citizens (Draft of 11.7.03). The UK government had no such concerns. The latest draft, 27 October, is: 1) limited to air travel and combatting "illegal immigration"; 2) limited to "foreign nationals"; 3) provides for checks to be made at "the airport of arrival" (not the airport of departure); 4) weak on "data processing" (no rights of data subject are set out) and says data "shall immediately" be deleted after "passengers have entered".

The Netherlands government says that the proposal has "no added value" in "combatting illegal immigration" but "the proposal to include terrorism holds promise". The Portuguese wants data to be held for six months but says it should not cover terrorism (and this could not be legal under Title IV TEC). Sweden "is not convinced that a routine-like collection of data of foreign nationals... can be considered not to be excessive" (under data protection law). Greece too sees no added value in the proposal as foreign nationals are checked anyway on arrival, that the further processing of data (checks against security and intelligence databases) would be contrary to its data protection law and "it will not be possible to delete information" from the databases being co

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