Jambon asks EU for more facial screening at Brussels Airport

Summary

Home affairs minister Jan Jambon wants passengers travelling outside the Schengen zone to systematically have their faces scanned to tighten security against criminals and those fighting in Syria

Heightened security

Brussels Airport should scan the faces of all passengers travelling to or from a country outside the Schengen zone, including the US, according to home affairs minister Jan Jambon. At present, systematic checks are only carried out on non-EU citizens.

Jambon’s proposal, which he is due to present to his EU minister counterparts today, aims to tighten up security against criminals and those travelling to fight in Syria. Every day, about 46,000 passengers pass through the six automatic security gates equipped with facial recognition scanners. These compare the photo on a passenger’s passport with a scan of their face.

The equipment is also able to compare the scan to a database of photos of wanted criminals, including those returning from having fought in Syria. “Criminals seek the line of least resistance,” a spokesperson for Jambon said. “That forces us to close every gap we can find. At airports, that’s relatively easy, compared, for example, to land borders.”

In March, another 18 scanners will be installed, a development welcomed by unions representing security personnel, which are also demanding additional personnel. If more criminals are detected by the scanners, union representative Kurt Callaert said, more staff will be required to deal with them.

Jambon’s proposal also requires the approval of the EU, as a policy of systematic checks on EU citizens is not in keeping with rules on free movement. He will have to convince the European Council that security imperatives are more important than a minor inconvenience to travellers. According to Jambon’s office, there is already a consensus in favour among other interior ministers.