London, Dec 31: The failure of many European countries to check passports against an international database of lost and stolen travel documents is leaving the Continent vulnerable to ‘another September 11,’ the head of Interpol has warned.
Secretary General Ronald Noble, a former head of the US Secret Service, said the security gap could allow potential terrorists to enter Europe and cross multiple borders undetected.
“So many basic steps aren’t being taken, which could lead to another September 11, another July 7, another March 7 in Madrid,” the Daily Mail quoted Noble, as saying.
“The lesson that should have been learned is that people carrying stolen travel documents, if they are not stopped, can enter your country and mastermind a horrible attack,” he said.
Noble pointed out that last year 500 million flights were not screened against the Interpol database.
“Right now, there are less countries than fingers on my hand in the EU that are systematically screening the passports of people coming across their borders through Interpol’s database,” he said.
Noble said the Schengen Agreement, which allows people to travel across much of the EU without a passport, meant a single weakness in border security could put the whole of the European mainland at risk.
A European commission source told The Independent that the Schengen area had its own security database, so member states were not obliged to carry out checks with Interpol.
But Interpol warns that the Schengen area’s security system is not as comprehensive, since it excludes records from 131 other countries that contribute to Interpol’s records.
Britain is the only EU country to systematically check passports against those registered with Interpol as missing worldwide. (ANI)