Supplementary memorandum by Ms Joan Ryan
MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Home Office
During my appearance before sub-Committee F
(Home Affairs) on 7 March I undertook to write with some additional
information on the e-Borders Programme, Project Semaphore and
our successful use of passenger data.
7 MARCH 2007
e-Borders is a medium to long-term initiative
to re-shape the UK's border co-ordinated by the Home Office Immigration
and Nationality Directorate (Border and Immigration Agency from
April 2007) in partnership with other border agencies (HM Revenue
and Customs, the Intelligence Agencies, the Police Service and
UKvisas). Other departments and agencies such as the Department
of Work and Pensions and the Identity and Passport Service are
involved as major potential beneficiaries of the e-Borders data.
The programme contract award is scheduled for 2007, with significant
operating capability planned for July 2008, and full e-Borders
capability in 2014.
Project Semaphore was launched in November 2004
as an operational prototype to trial e-Borders concepts and technology
in order to inform and de-risk e-Borders. The pilot has been capturing
passenger information on selected routes, and assessing it against
watch lists. Based on the assessment, where a passenger is of
interest, an alert is usually issued to the relevant partner agency
for appropriate action to be taken. The Joint Border Operations
Centre (JBOC) is the operational hub of Project Semaphore and
manages the data captured and generates alerts to the border security
agencies. Significant operational successes have been achieved,
including the arrests on arrival or departure of those wanted
for serious crimes, such as murder, rape, drug and tobacco smuggling
as well as passport offences. To date nearly 900 arrests have
The two key types of data received by project
Semaphore are Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger
Name Records (PNR). API is usually used to refer to the information
contained in a passenger's travel document, including the name,
date of birth, gender, nationality and travel document type and
number. PNR data is a term specific to the air carrier industry
and relates to information held in a carrier's reservation system
and consists of a number of elements which may include date and
place of ticket issue, method of payment and travel itinerary.
We are currently collecting passenger data from
40 carriers, amounting to 20.9m annualised passenger movements.
Project Semaphore currently receives API data on flights from
72 non-UK arrival and departure points. Recent API checks have
led to a number of police national computer matches, including
the identification of three men wanted for murder during riots
in Birmingham last year. They were arrested at Heathrow and have
since been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. These
checks have also led to immigration service matches, such as the
identification of holders of fraudulently obtained passports who
have consequently been refused leave to enter the UK. We are negotiating
with carriers to expand our data access in order to achieve the
IND Review target of 30 million movements by April 2008.
PNR data is used in Semaphore to identify "associated
passengers" on bookings. It is also used to identify passengers
who are in-transit through the UK rather than arriving (thus reducing
unnecessary alerts). In January 2007 23 successes were recorded
by Project Semaphore as a result of automated profiling based
on passenger data. For example, HMRC were alerted by PNR data
to a passenger whose booking was made the day before travel and
paid for in cash, who had an overnight stay in the UK before onward
travel to Houston. The check of onboard details by a JBOC analyst
showed a change in the routing to depart from Gatwick to Houston,
which matched a previous successful HMRC profile. The alert was
passed directly to HMRC at Heathrow, where he was intercepted
on arrival and four kilos of cocaine was found in his baggage.
He was arrested and charged.
I would also like to advise you that a future
EU common framework on PNR data is being considered by the European
Commission. An informal consultation has been carried out and
a draft framework decision may be brought forward later this year.
There is no set date. We look forward to this proposal, and hope
that it will be as flexible as possible to maximise the benefits
of PNR data.
30 March 2007