Brussels: European Union legislators approved yesterday a scheme to share airline passenger information that nations hope to use to track foreign fighters travelling to and from conflict areas like Syria and who might pose a danger in Europe.
The move ends years of wrangling over how to balance security needs and privacy rights.
Legislators came under great pressure to adopt the scheme in the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 and last month’s suicide bombings in Brussels, which left 32 dead.
The so-called Passenger Name Record (PNR) law was approved at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, by 461 votes to 179, with nine abstentions.
“PNR will be a precious tool for boosting the security of European citizens by helping to detect early the movement of jihadi terrorists that take air transport throughout Europe, but also between Europe and other regions of the world, to prevent them taking action,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.
Under the scheme, law enforcement agencies in all 28 nations would have access to traveller details gathered by airlines, including names, travel dates, itineraries, and credit card details.
The information will be kept for five years, but identifying details like name, address and contact details will be masked out after six months to protect people’s identities.
At least 5,000 Europeans are believed to have trained or fought in Syria and Iraq but authorities are struggling to track their movements and prove their activities.