The system of Passenger Name Record (PNR) in operation in Belgium since January 2018 has managed to track down 94 suspected terrorists and suspects involved in a variety of crimes, according to the government’s crisis centre.
Under the PNR system, airlines are committed to providing all the information they have on passengers who are due to arrive at, depart from or transit through one of Belgium’s six airports. The information has to be handed over 48 hours in advance to BelPIU. a team within the crisis centre made up of specialists from the local and federal police, state security, customs and military intelligence.
The centre qualifies its results, however, by pointing out that 40 of the 94 terrorism suspects were on an existing register of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF), and that none of the suspects captured by PNR is actively wanted or has ever been the subject of a conviction. As a result, the men in question were detained, questioned and investigated further and then released.
The 54 men and women were flagged on PNR after being named in a case of terrorism or radicalisation, but were otherwise unable to be traced by police. They were identified with the help of BelPIU.
PNR was introduced in Belgium last January, and now involves the 29 most important airlines, covering 70% of all passengers arriving in or departing from the country. The remaining 30% were travelling with one of 50 smaller airlines.
“In the interests of privacy, our analysts only have sight of information on passengers who are wanted in connection with the fight against terrorism or serious crime,” said director Gunter Ceuppens. The team is also responsible for working out how best to take the person signalled by the system into custody – preferably, for security reasons, before they even arrive at the airport.
At the same time, the FAST team of the federal police (Fugitive Active Search Team) was responsible, along with other services, for tracking down 345 wanted criminals, 98 of whom were on the run in Belgium itself. The remainder were traced to mainly to France (59), the Netherlands (39), Germany (34), Spain (28) and Romania (18), Commissioner Martin Van Steenbrugge explained. The FAST team still has a list of 1,852 fugitives who remain at large.