Terror crackdown: Passengers forced to answer 53 questions before they travel
(Daily Mail) Travellers face price hikes and confusion after the Government unveiled plans to take up to 53 pieces of information from anyone entering or leaving Britain.
For every journey, security officials will want credit card details, holiday contact numbers, travel plans, email addresses, car numbers and even any previous missed flights.
The information, taken when a ticket is bought, will be shared among police, customs, immigration and the security services for at least 24 hours before a journey is due to take place.
Anybody about whom the authorities are dubious can be turned away when they arrive at the airport or station with their baggage.
Those with outstanding court fines, such as a speeding penalty, could also be barred from leaving the country, even if they pose no security risk.
The information required under the “e-borders” system was revealed as Gordon Brown announced plans to tighten security at shopping centres, airports and ports.
This could mean additional screening of baggage and passenger searches, with resulting delays for travellers.
The e-borders scheme is expected to cost at least £1.2billion over the next decade.
Travel companies, which will run up a bill of £20million a year compiling the information, will pass on the cost to customers via ticket prices, and the Government is considering introducing its own charge on travellers to recoup costs.
Critics warned of mayhem at ports and airports when the system is introduced, beginning in earnest from mid-2009.
By 2014 every one of the predicted 305million passenger journeys in and out of the UK will be logged, with details stored about the passenger on every trip.
The scheme will apply to every way of leaving the country, whether by ferry, plane, or small aircraft. It would apply to a family having a day out in France by Eurotunnel, and even to a yachtsman leaving British waters during the day and returning to shore.
The measure applies equally to UK residents going abroad and foreigners travelling here.
The information will be stored for as long as the authorities believe it is useful, allowing them to build a complete picture of where a person has been over their lifetime, how they paid and the contact numbers of who they stayed with.
The Home Office, which yesterday signed a contract with U.S. company Raytheon Systems to run the computer system, said e-borders would help to keep terrorists and illegal immigrants out of the country.
For the first time since embarkation controls were scrapped in 1998, they will also have a more accurate picture of who is in the UK at any one time.
The personal information stored about every journey could prove vital in detecting a planned atrocity, officials insist.
But the majority – around 60 per cent – of the journeys logged will be made by Britons, mostly going on family holidays or business trips.
Ministers are also considering the creation of a list of “disruptive” passengers, so that authorities know in advance of any potential troublemaker, such as an abusive drunk.
David Marshall of the Association of British Travel Agents said: “We are staggered at the projected costs.
“It could also act as a disincentive to people wanting to travel, and we are sure that is not what the Government intends.”
Phil Booth, of the NO2ID group, warned travellers would pay a “stealth tax” on travel to pay for the scheme.
He added: “This is a huge and utterly ridiculous quantity of personal information. This type of profiling will throw up many distressing errors and problems for innocent people.
“We have already seen planes turned around mid-flight because a passenger’s surname matches that of somebody on a watch list.
“When the Government talks about e-borders, it gives the impression it is about keeping bad people out. In fact, it is a huge grab of personal information, and another move towards the database state.”
A pilot of the “e-borders” technology, known as Project Semaphore, has already screened 29million passengers.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: “Successful trials of the new system have already led to more than 1,000 criminals being caught and more than 15,000 people of concern being checked out by immigration, customs or the police.”
But Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, said: “The Government must not use legitimate fears or dangers to crop vast amounts of private information without proper safeguards.”
John Tincey, of the Immigration Service Union, said: “The question is are there going to be the staff to respond to the information that is produced?
“In reality people could be missed. Potential terrorists could be coming through if there are not enough staff to check them.”
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “While e-borders could be a useful tool to secure our borders it will not be up and running for at least another seven years.
“And given the Government’s woeful record on delivering IT based projects, it may well be over budget and over time.
“In the meantime our borders remain porous. The Government should take practical measures to secure our borders, such as answering our call to establish a dedicated UK border police force.”
• Restrictions on hand luggage carried on to passenger planes will be lifted from January.
“Starting with several airports in the New Year, we will work with airport operators to ensure all UK airports are in a position to allow passengers to fly with more than one item of hand luggage,” Gordon Brown said.
The single bag rule was introduced in August last year after police said they foiled a plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners.
It caused chaos at Heathrow Airport and drew complaints from airlines. Restrictions on carrying liquids are expected to continue.
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