All international buses and trains departing from Belgium will be screened for suspected terrorists and other criminals such as drugs dealers, starting at the end of this year. The decision to start screening passengers lists was taken after the incident aboard a Thalys train in France when an armed man was disarmed by three civilians. The train had made a stop at the South station in Brussels.
The job of coordinating passenger lists has been given to BelPIU, an office of the national crisis centre, which is staffed by operatives from state security, the federal police, the defence ministry and customs.
Following a pilot project working with one bus company and one international train operator – Flixbus and Eurostar – the legal aspects have been worked out and the system is ready to be rolled out.
But the start-up will be gradual, explained Yves Stevens of the crisis centre.
“The lists of passengers are currently being processed, just as happens already for almost all flights that take off or land in this country,” he said. Lists are first checked 48 hours before departure, and then again shortly before departure to take account of last-minute bookings.
“The systems for other train and bus companies who offer international travel will be phased into the system,” Stevens said. “We have to secure the data they transfer to us, which is a very technical process, which means they are not able to be added to the system all at once.”
As well as major criminals, the system is designed to reveal the movements of estranged parents abducting their own children in defiance of court orders, as well as money launderers or suspected diamond smugglers.
The screening process will not, however, cover coach companies offering chartered travel for city trips.