Irish holiday misery due to invasive checks: Martina Anderson

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson says long delays being experienced by Irish holiday-makers at European airports this summer are the result of invasive new security checks she personally opposed in the European Parliament earlier this year.

Irish and British tourists are currently being subjected to stringent new security checks when travelling through various European air hubs.

The holiday headache is the result of new regulations that were passed by the European Parliament in February, and signed into law in March.

The new rules are supposed to strengthen Europe’s borders and keep ‘foreign terrorist fighters,’ many of whom are European citizens, out of the European Union.

The new controls - which affect Irish travellers due to our non-membership of the Schengen open border area - mean our passport details will now have to be inputted against Interpol, Schengen Information System (SIS) and national databases, before we’re let through passport control on the continent from now on.

In the past, European border guards would merely have looked at Irish passports and nodded travellers through. No more. You’ll now be checked off against stolen passport and Interpol wanted lists, however long that takes.

Ms. Anderson, who voted against the measure and was vocal in her opposition in Strasbourg earlier this year, said: “Many holiday-makers and tourists are currently experiencing long delays at airports as a result of enhanced security checks by member states who have signed up to the Schengen agreement.

“While security must be paramount at airports, these measures are more about the collection of data and will not necessarily improve security as the data collection is not targeted.

“Earlier this year I raised concerns about these measures in the European Parliament and warned that it would lead to infringements on civil liberties.

“In order to improve security the EU needs to make better use of the data it has and improve co-operation between member states and focus on tackling the route causes of conflict.”

The new regulations were approved by 469 votes to 120, with 42 abstentions in the European Parliament in February.

Speaking in Strasbourg before voting against the measure, Ms. Anderson said: “It is delusional to think that collecting more data on ordinary citizens will make Europe a safer place. Everybody wants European citizens to be safe, but this regulation would not have prevented the attacks that took place across Europe. It will not work because the massive collection of data is not targeted. It is an infringement of the civil liberties of EU citizens and residents. It is invasive and unnecessary. The Commission has not even made an impact assessment to justify the regulation before pushing it through.

“If Europe wants to prevent terrorism, it needs better use of existing data, better cooperation between Member States, police and public prosecutors, and it needs to promote conflict resolution instead of fanning foreign conflicts and wars.”