C: Gript

EU to introduce mandatory data collection to combat illegal immigration on flights

The Department of Justice has notified the Oireachtas concerning EU proposals relating to new mandatory and streamlined Advance Passenger Information (API) data collection for the purposes of border management and combating illegal and irregular immigration on all flights entering the Union. 

The transmission of API data is currently regulated by the 2004 API Directive, which imposes an obligation on air carriers to transmit, “upon request” passenger data to the Member State of destination prior to the flight’s take-off, for flights in-bound from a third country to improve border controls and combat illegal immigration.”

API data is biographic information on passengers, as contained in travel documents, and is collected by air carriers at the moment of check-in (online or at the airport). This data is stored in the air carriers’ systems and sent to competent national border authorities as a complete ‘passenger list manifest’ containing all passengers on board at the departure of the plane.

According to the Migration and Home Affairs department of the European Commission, the destination countries border authorities can then screen the passengers while in-flight for border migration management and law enforcement purposes:

“Border checks for bona fide travellers are therefore expedited upon arrival, while more resources and time can be spent to identify travellers who need further attention.”

It is not clear to what extent the Border Management Units throughout Ireland, including those at Dublin Airport, have opted to utilise this data to assist in identifying persons arriving here without any identifying documentation.

As noted above, however, the new EU proposals if adopted, would make the transmission and use of API data mandatory across the Union.

The Department of Justice have indicated that the stricter regulations will not be adopted until approximately 2025, with secondary legislation to be adopted by 2028 and entry into operation by 2030. Overall, the Department says that an 8-year implementation period is envisaged.

The Department of Justice also says that it has participated in a number of EU Commission workshops prior to the publication of this proposal and that engagement “with wider stakeholders will now commence.”

It can be safely assumed that ‘stakeholders’ refers to the Department of Transport, the Gardai, as well as immigration and refugee NGO’s.

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