UN calls for expanded use of advance passenger information to prevent foreign terrorists from travelling

June 15, 2015 - 

UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) has called for expanding the use of advance passenger information (API) to prevent foreign terrorists from travelling, as well as offering recommendations for various measures to help resolve any issues related to using the tool, according to a report by the UN News Centre.

“Today, we have indications that more than 25,000 people have travelled abroad from more than 100 States to join terrorists groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” said Hassan Baage, deputy director of the assessment and technical assistance office of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED).

“API is an electronic communications system that collects a passenger’s biographical data and basic flight details provided by an airline carrier,” he explained at a press conference at UN Headquarters. The data is generally collected from the passenger’s passport or other government-issued travel document at the time of check-in, and includes details such as a passenger’s name and date of birth.”

Last September, the Security Council put new legislation into place in which Member States would make it mandatory for all airlines operating in their territories to provide API to the appropriate national authorities.

The security measure is designed to detect the departure of individuals designated by the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee from their territories.

CTED released a report that confirmed that only 51 Member States are currently using an API system.

Additionally, only 12 of these 51 countries have interactive API systems that have the ability to perform passenger risk assessments in near real-time to alert “border-control agencies and airline carriers to potential FTFs [foreign terrorist fighters] before they board a flight.”

The report also found that the low usage of API systems can be attributed to the complexity of the systems, the high degree of technical capacity and skill these systems require, their high costs, and the privacy and data-protection issues related to the collection and use of API.

The privacy and data-protection issue was regarded as being the greatest potential cause for low API usage among Member States, said Baage.

“However, as API being essentially the data contained in the machine-readable zone of a passenger’s passport, the transfer of API to border-control authorities only gives border-control authorities earlier access to passenger data that would otherwise be presented by the passenger to such authorities for inspection upon arrival,” said Baage, in respect to the low usage of API, privacy and data-protection concerns have received the most attention as potential causes.

The report offers 12 recommendations – including the development of plans and projects, with a focus on States impacted by the foreign terrorist fighter issue — for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Customs Organization (WCO), and the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.