Sunday 22 October 2017

2,000 people stopped at ports by crackdown on passports

New figures show that more than five million travel documents have so far been checked under the new system, involving the vast majority of air passengers arriving here, regardless of nationality or route taken. Stock Image
New figures show that more than five million travel documents have so far been checked under the new system, involving the vast majority of air passengers arriving here, regardless of nationality or route taken. Stock Image
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

More than 2,000 people have been refused entry to the State through the ports in the first six months of the year.

A key factor in the tightening up of security nationwide is the introduction of instant checks on passports and other travel documents with an Interpol database.

The move was introduced as a crucial measure in immigration security, but also anti-terrorism efforts to track the movements of suspected jihadis.

Up until late last year, checks with Interpol's lost and stolen travel documents database could only be carried out infrequently.

They were usually done in circumstances where there were already suspicions surrounding a document or the person carrying it.

After a highly successful pilot programme at Dublin airport from the end of November, it has been extended to other ports across the State.

New figures show that more than five million travel documents have so far been checked under the new system, involving the vast majority of air passengers arriving here, regardless of nationality or route taken.

Some passengers returning from the UK queried whether the new checks were related to the UK's imminent departure from the EU, but this is not the case. During the initial phase of the project, it was introduced for non-European economic area flights only.

But because of a better than expected implementation, with 100,000 passengers checked in the first two weeks, it has since been extended considerably to other flights by border management staff at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).

The checks have resulted in several hundred documents being identified as lost or stolen, with passports or identity cards being seized.

Immigration authorities say that more than 250,000 scans per week are being undertaken, depending on the flow of passengers.

The threat level here remains at moderate, which means a jihadi terror attack is possible but not likely.

But concerns remain that fighters returning to Europe from Syria could use Ireland as a transit point with the aid of false documentation.

Scanned

The new automated system allows for the travel documentation to be scanned instantly by front-line immigration officers at control booths at points of entry, with an immediate response as to whether there has been a "hit" received from the Interpol database.

Airport security is expected to be further enhanced shortly with the introduction of a permanent electronic gate system, which can cope speedily with large volumes of passengers through camera checks.

This follows a successful trial project.

And the deal that was negotiated last year with the UK for the advanced sharing of passenger information between the Irish and British authorities is now being extended to flights into the State from outside the EU.

"The enhanced checks are part of Ireland's commitment to playing its part in ensuring effective controls are in place across the EU and internationally so as to safeguard travel for legitimate passengers whilst also detecting those with malicious or other intent," the Department of Justice said last night.

Irish Independent

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