News / Europe

    EU Lawmakers Urged to Back Passenger List to Track Syria Fighters

    Homs, Hama, Damascus, Syria map
    Homs, Hama, Damascus, Syria map
    Reuters
    Nine European Union nations urged the European Parliament on Thursday to set aside privacy concerns and back plans for an EU-wide passenger data list aimed at thwarting suspected militants traveling from Europe to fight in Syria.
     
    EU governments say hundreds of their citizens are joining rebel forces battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They fear some of these newly-trained fighters - estimated at up to 600 people - will return home to carry out attacks in Europe.
     
    Complicating authorities' efforts to track the potential extremists is the absence of a European system to store airline passengers' personal details. Experts believe most Europeans fly to Turkey before crossing the porous border into Syria.
     
    Concerned about privacy rights, the European Parliament in April rejected a plan that would have set up a “Passenger Name Record” (PNI) with phone numbers, addresses and credit card details of passengers entering or leaving the EU. Airlines would have been required to furnish the information to governments.
     
    Such information is already shared with the United States but not among all EU states. Sixteen EU governments collect passenger data but do not pass it on to their neighbors.
     
    The interior ministers of France and Belgium, Manuel Valls and Joelle Milquet, said in a joint statement they and ministers from seven other EU nations would petition the European Parliament committee which is now re-examining the text.
     
    Besides France and Belgium, ministers from Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Britain and Sweden signed a letter addressed to the head of the parliamentary committee on justice and home affairs, Jose Lopez-Aguillar. A copy of the letter was not immediately available.

    European security
     
    The letter underlined “the importance, for the security of the European Union and those who live within it, of being able to quickly have at our disposal a PNR system offering a high level of privacy protection,” the statement said.
     
    The EU's counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, called in May for urgent action to counter what he called the “serious problem” of 'jihadists' traveling from Europe to Syria in large numbers.
     
    One of 22 measures de Kerchove suggested was to highlight to the European Parliament the importance of a PNR system that would allow member states to track suspicious travel movements.
     
    The issue is particularly worrying in France, which has been on heightened security alert since January, when it intervened in Mali to repel al Qaeda-linked rebels.
     
    “Maybe 50 [French nationals] are still on the ground [in Syria], 40 are in transit and about 30 have returned and are under surveillance by our services,” Valls said last month, adding that a “handful” had been killed in fighting.
     
    In June, police arrested about a dozen people from two suspected cells who they said were preparing to fight in Syria.
     
    The extent of the problem surfaced in July when a video posted on YouTube showed a 30-year-old French convert to Islam, accompanied by his younger brother, exhorting his “Muslim brothers” to join him in Syria to take up Jihad.
     
    The man from the southern city of Toulouse had been under surveillance by police for a year, according to French media, before traveling to Syria via Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.
     
    More than 100,000 people have been killed and nearly two million have fled abroad since the Syrian uprising against Assad began 28 months ago.

    You May Like

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    Speeding Causes Spike in Deaths on South African Roads

    At least 14,000 people die each year from country’s traffic-related incidents; authorities criticized on issues of safety, legal enforcement

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora