A new system of screening airline passengers flying out of Belgium has netted 834 wanted criminals since it was introduced in April, according to the federal home affairs ministry. The new law requires airlines communicate the personal details of all passengers to the ministry, which then refers to police databases, to determine if any of the people concerned are wanted, or in other cases are forbidden from leaving the country – if serving parole, for example.
The Passenger Information Unit (as it is called, in English) has called in airport police in 10% of cases, leading to the discovery of more than 800 cases – among them eight drugs dealers and 18 victims of parental abduction. Others were suspected of theft, tech crimes and links to terrorism.
The Unit is made up of police, state security, military intelligence and customs officers. Background checks are made without the suspect’s knowledge, based on the information they provide to the airline. Police become involved when the suspect presents at the airport – not necessarily always at the same stage of the procedure.
A spokesperson for the home affairs minister said the new system has turned out to be “a major success story in the fight against crime and terrorism”.