INTERPOL-ICAO joint forum underlines need to balance security with passenger convenience

31 May 2021
Public-private sector cooperation essential for secure transfer of traveller data

LYON, France – The importance of streamlining border management with systematic data checks was the focus of the first INTERPOL-ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) joint passenger data exchange forum.

Bringing together counter-terrorism and transnational-crime, customs, migration, transportation and information and communications technology experts, the two day (27 and 28 May) meeting highlighted the need for countries to implement Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data systems.

Ensuring that passenger data was screened as early as possible was also identified as key to both border security and avoiding bottlenecks at airports thereby enhancing both traveller comfort and safety.

To achieve this, the forum underlined that interoperability, data quality and exchange as well as a common understanding and interpretation of the data among the different stakeholders was essential.

Cooperation between the public and private sectors was also identified as crucial in ensuring a seamless and secure transfer of traveller data.

Virtual borders

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said access to and exchange of information was part of a shared vision of a “virtual border” which adds a key layer of security to physical boundaries guarded by men and women in uniform, thanks to multi-national, and multi-sector action.

“One key piece of data shared, a simple check at the frontlines can mean a potential threat to air travel is identified.

“We need to close gaps which are being exploited by criminals and terrorists to undermine our societies and this forum is an important step in achieving this,” said Secretary General Stock.

“ICAO certainly hasn’t underestimated the challenges that States face when implementing passenger data exchange programmes, and we hope that this event has helped governments to appreciate the wide ranging support available to them, whether from ICAO itself, our UN partners, other international organizations, and the many states who have already been through this journey,” said ICAO Secretary General Liu.

“We also should maintain no illusions that COVID-19’s impacts are preventing members of terrorist groups and transnational organized crime groups from attempting to travel across the globe to undertake criminal acts,” added Secretary General Liu.

Security

An essential part of border security is the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database – the only global repository – which contains more than 102 million records such as passports, identity cards, visas and UN laissez-passer, and also stolen blank, revoked, invalid travel and identity documents.

In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted international travel, the database was searched nearly 4 billion times, resulting in 272,914 positive matches, or ‘hits’.

The joint INTERPOL-ICAO forum was held as part of the long running cooperation between the two organizations since the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2000.