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Passenger Controls

The Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) phenomenon is increasingly becoming a global security threat. Individuals are being lured from communities worldwide to join terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda. Those who return to their countries of origin pose greater security risks of carrying out violent attacks in their home territory. The Passenger controls initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of Customs administrations to prevent the movement of FTFs and other individuals supporting terrorism across international borders. The project focuses on the utilization of Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Records (PNR) within administrations to improve and develop risk analysis and targeting methods for effective passenger control.

Customs’ passenger assessment functions are increasingly being driven by the use of pre-arrival and pre-departure information. The World Customs Organization (WCO), together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), crafted the first Advance Passenger Information (API) Guidelines in 1993. These Guidelines, which have since been updated by the WCO/ICAO/IATA API/PNR Contact Committee, have enabled Customs administrations to pursue more effective risk management practices using API and PNR data.

API has proven to be a very useful tool for Customs that have implemented passenger targeting as part of their risk management suite of tools. Similarly, API transmission has allowed Customs administrations to apply different types of risk profiles to facilitate risk-based decision-making. However, due to the ever-growing number of travellers moving across borders, the requirements and demands relating to Customs’ passenger assessment functions have increased, and WCO Members have increasingly been looking at other types of information streams to further support enforcement activities, as well as the additional benefit of facilitating passengers that do not pose a terrorist threat at our borders.

The Passenger Name Record (PNR) has recently become a key information source which Customs administrations want to tap into. PNR can provide a wealth of additional information about the traveller and their journey when used in conjunction with API, and provides Customs with better means of preventing and detecting smuggling of all types of contraband. It also promotes more effective means of detecting other high risks, such as foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs), as stipulated in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178.

To this end, the WCO is providing use of the Global Travel Assessment System (GTAS), to any member state that wishes to implement an automated API and/or PNR passenger risk assessment system of their own. The GTAS software is available free of charge and is available to any member state. In short, GTAS is a web-based system that allows for the ingestion of data from airlines that follows standardized format as defined by the WCO-IATA-ICAO Guidelines. GTAS also allows for the Customs officer to create risk rules, and create targets based on API and/or PNR data to assist in better border risk management.

The Passenger Controls initiative is also undertaking the development of suite of training modules to assist customs officers on enforcement activities in the air passenger continuum. A complete Passenger Controls Enforcement - Air Compendium is currently under development.