Federal police in Antwerp searched passengers on low price international bus lines on Saturday. This is the second operation of its kind in Belgium. The Home Affairs Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA), who was present during the operation, said these bus companies are popular with drugs traffickers and other criminals.
The low prices and the lack of regular searches, like those performed during international train and airplane journeys, easily explain why criminals might use buses to get across borders. Security services in several European countries now want to do something about this growing trend.
Dutch, French and Luxemburg police were all present during Saturday’s operation in Antwerp. They touched on the possibility of drawing up lists of the passengers using these companies. “We want to be able to compare passenger data with our terrorist and criminal databases”, says Jan Jambon. “We can already do this at airports and we are currently putting the final touches to the process for railway passengers. It’s more complex for buses because they go through several different countries”.
During Saturday’s operation, buses were spotted by police helicopters and escorted to checkpoints by road traffic police. Police checked both the identity of the passenger and their luggage. “It’s a very intensive search that requires a lot of manpower, including trainees from the police academy”, says Peter De Waele from the Federal police. “We are trying to keep passenger waiting time to a minimum, so they can continue their journey as soon as possible, if all is well”.