The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., has signed Regulations transposing into Irish law an EU Directive requiring air carriers to provide advance passenger data to Irish Immigration authorities for the purposes of improving border control and combating illegal immigration.
The Regulations will apply to all inbound flights to Ireland from outside the EU and to all passengers on those flights. Implementation of the Regulations will require airlines to:
· Provide data on passengers in advance of flights arriving in Ireland. The information to be provided is contained on the machine readable zone of passports.
· Transmit the data captured to the Irish Immigration authorities after the completion of a flight’s check-in.
Providing the Immigration authorities with passenger information in advance of a flight arriving in Ireland will facilitate checks against watchlists to identify persons of interest before passengers arrive at border control. This will be to the benefit of both the State and genuine passengers by:
· Assisting in the prevention of crime and immigration abuses;
· Facilitating the smooth passage of legitimate travellers; and
· Allowing for improved and more effective management of the State’s borders.
Signing the Regulations, Minster Shatter noted that, "The collection and analysis of passenger information provided for by these Regulations signifies a significant development in the protection of our borders. Illegal immigration is a flagrant abuse of our immigration system which cannot be tolerated. This measure will greatly assist in identifying and combating immigration abuses, as well as giving advance warning to border control of other persons of interest who may have committed criminal, revenue, social welfare or other such offences."
The Minister further stated that, "The new law provides a key building block for developing an integrated border system that uses technology to identify and detect abuses at the border but also, and perhaps more importantly, will allow the use of innovative technology to facilitate the bona fide traveller and provide for a more strategic use of civilian and Garda resources at airports".
Implementation of the Regulations – next steps:
· The Department of Justice and Equality will be working closely with other Departments and the relevant airlines to effectively implement the Directive.
· In the initial stages a prototype system will be developed to test and refine the system concept before building a system to receive and process passenger data from airlines.
· The prototype will be introduced on a pilot phase before the end of 2011.
27 October 2011
Note for Editors
The European Communities (Communication of Passenger Data) Regulations 2011 transposed Council Directive 2004/82/EC of 29 April, 2004 on the obligation of carriers to communicate passenger data into Irish law. The Directive was adopted following a request by the European Council of 25 and 26 March 2004, which met following the terrorist attacks in Madrid.
Similar arrangements have existed for some time in other EU Member States. For example, in the United Kingdom the e-borders system is perhaps the most developed of any of the Member States. A recent statement from the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) revealed that alerts from the system led to 2,800 arrests in 2010- 2011 after the details of 126 million passengers were checked against watchlists of suspects wanted by UKBA, Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and HM Revenue & Customs.
The purpose of the Directive is to improve border controls and to fight irregular migration. It provides that upon the request of the authorities carrying out border checks, air carriers must communicate the following data in respect of a passenger:
· the number and type of the travel document used by him or her, as provided to the carrier concerned,
· his or her nationality, as provided to the carrier concerned,
· his or her full names, as provided to the carrier concerned,
· his or her date of birth, as provided to the carrier concerned,
· the port at which the person is to arrive in the State,
· the code of transport used,
· the scheduled departure and arrival times of the aircraft concerned,
· the total number of passengers carried on that aircraft, and
· the initial point of embarkation.
The personal data are typically taken from the machine readable zone of the passenger’s passport and forwarded to the authorities after the completion of check in.
Border control authorities must delete the data within 24 hours of the arrival of the flight unless the data is needed later for the purposes of exercising the statutory functions of the authorities responsible for carrying out checks on persons at external borders.
Member States may impose fines and other sanctions on carriers that fail to comply with the obligation to transmit passenger data.
The Directive does not allow the exchange of passenger data between Member States. However, law enforcement authorities other than border authorities can request access to this information for law enforcement purposes.
The Regulations transposing the Directive include provisions setting out that the Minister may require air carriers to collect data on passengers for the purposes of establishing whether a passenger is a person of concern which is defined in Regulation 1(a) as
"person of concern" means a person who—
(a) has committed, or is suspected of having committed—
(i) an offence under Immigration Acts ,
(ii) an offence in respect of which a European arrest warrant could be issued in the State or a Member State under the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003,
(iii) an offence under the Employment Permits Acts 2003 and 2006 or any other enactment relating to employment or economic activity in the State,
(iv) a revenue offence, or
(v) an offence under the Social Welfare Acts,
(b) has engaged in or facilitated, or is suspected of having engaged in or facilitated, illegal immigration, smuggling of persons or trafficking,
(c) is a victim, or is suspected of being a victim, of any of the activities referred to in paragraph (a) or (b)
(d) on the basis of information available to him or her, the Minister is satisfied should be treated as a person of concern for any purpose mentioned in Regulation 3(1)(a).
The Regulations provide for deletion of the passenger data within 24 hours or in the case of "a person of concern" up to 3 years or until he or she is no longer considered "a person of concern" whichever is the earlier. Persons who fail to comply with the requirements of the Regulations face a Class A fine or imprisonment for up to 12 months on summary conviction (or both) or for conviction on indictment to a fine of €500,000 or up to 3 years imprisonment (or both).