When the European Travel Information and Authorisation System comes into being in early 2021, all online applications for ETIAS approval will be stored in the ETIAS Central Unit computers where the applicant’s personal details contained therein will be accessible by Europol, The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation. Also accessible at the ETIAS Central Unit will be data from the major European law enforcement agencies relating to perceived risks from criminal or terrorist activity throughout the European Union. Cross-checking these databases against applicant’s completed forms will be the task of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, who will run the system. The new streamlined ETIAS database will contain all the necessary information regarding applicants to enable a decision to be automatically reached with regard to the refusal or granting of ETIAS approval but certain applications, applicants or situations will require more than the basic information contained in the database. To this end, an ETIAS Watchlist will be compiled where there is some suspicion or doubt regarding the status of the applicant or the veracity of the application form.
Purpose of Watchlist
The express purpose of the Watchlist is to protect the European zone from terrorist attacks, criminal activity and health risks Throughout the world there are numerous persons and groups that are of particular interest to law enforcement agencies. This may be because of suspected or known involvement in terrorism or criminal enterprises. To evade detection by law enforcement these people often use false identity papers, aliases, dummy addresses and an array of questionable documentation. Over time, all this information is collected and collated into files as the person or organisation is monitored.
Sometimes, however, this valuable information is only available to the police in the country in which the suspect resides or the group is based. This situation is set to change with the establishment of the ETIAS Central Unit’s application database and accompanying Watchlist.
ETIAS Watchlist Management
Drawing information from the ETIAS Central Unit’s stored application forms and various European security databases, the ETIAS Watchlist will be compiled and maintained by Europol with some input from the ETIAS Screening Board. Europol will have responsibility for keeping the list up to date and ensuring that the data and information is correct and current. This will be accomplished by adding information regarding any ETIAS applicant whose application form raises a red flag.
Any suspicious data that could have connections with terrorism or criminality will be included on the Watchlist and also noted on the ETIAS Central Unit’s database. The ETIAS Watchlist will include the information consistenting of the following:
- Surnames, nicknames, given names and aliases with terrorist or criminal connections
- Date of birth
- Passport or other travel document details
- Country and city of birth
- Home, business and other addresses
- Email addresses
- Phone numbers
- Visits to war zones or areas of conflict
The Watchlist will also contain the names of people who have police records for serious criminal or terrorist offences and even those who are suspected of such offences or involvement in these activities. Other possible reasons for inclusion on the Watchlist are medical conditions such as infectious or contagious diseases that may pose a health risk to Europe.
Ordinary citizens seeking ETIAS approval for travel to and within Europe have nothing to worry about where the Watchlist is concerned once the application form is completed fully and honestly. Problems will only arise when an applicant supplies false, misleading or inaccurate information which may raise a red flag on the Watchlist.
There may be a simple reason for this situation arising and, in this event, the application will be processed manually. This may necessitate further background checks on the applicant by the ETIAS National Unit of the country from which the application is being made. Once Europol and the law enforcement agencies involved in checking the application details are satisfied ETIAS approval will be granted and the Watchlist updated to reflect any new information. Should the red flag have been due to some simple entry or clerical error the applicant’s name will be immediately removed from the Watchlist to prevent future errors or refusal from occurring.
Non-participating ETIAS countries (which will include the United Kingdom following Brexit) will not be allowed access to the Watchlist and it will be up to these nations to operate their own travel security measures.