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Loophole in EU air traffic rules allows terrorists and criminals to travel undetected

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TERRORISTS and criminals can exploit a loophole in European Union law which enables them to travel undetected across the bloc’s borders, often avoiding security and passport checks altogether.

Miscreants can avoid the same database checks that regular holiday-makers catching commercial flights are subject to by travelling by private jets, according to an investigation by EU Observer.

All airline passengers have their information recorded when taking commercial flights, with their data saved to the EU’s Passenger Name Record.

However, passengers travelling on private jets within the EU may be exempt from the same database scrutiny because it is the decision of member state’s to implement.

PNR – which entered into force in May of this year – is “a record of each passenger’s travel requirements held in carriers’ reservation and departure control system”

The EU directive forces airlines to twice submit passenger information to central police authorities at the time of booking and once again after the passenger boards the plan. The cross-referencing applies to international flights to and from EU airports.

Collected data can include passport, payment, contact details as well as dates of travel, seat number and travel itinerary.

The information, which makes up one of the EU’s largest databases, is available to all police authorities in the EU, and also to the US for five years.

The European Commission, the EU’s powerful executive, have already started legal actions against half of the member states for not implementing the PNR sufficiently.

Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain were given two months to reply, on July 19, or face further action.

Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes raised concerns that the loophole can be used by terrorists and other criminals to travel across borders undetected.

She said: “Governments are not serious when they announce that they are fighting terrorism and leave a hole in the law.”

The European Commission is aware of the issue and is working hard to close the loophole for non-commercial private jet, an official said: “for non-commercial private jets the decision is up to member states.

“We’ve also committed to reviewing the new law by 2020 and can revise it to include all private jets if needs be.

“In parallel, new rules now ensure that all people travelling to the EU – by any means of transport – are systematically checked against all EU security databases before being granted entry.

“And, we are developing new systems, the Entry-Exit System and European Travel and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to make sure that any information loopholes are closed and we know exactly who is crossing EU borders.”

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