Safe Airports for a Safer Iraq: AIRCOP webinars on pre and frontline identification of suspicious passengers

Baghdad, Iraq - 14 April 2021: Terrorist organizations and organized criminal groups have long focused on using borders to move suspicious passengers and illicit goods without being detected such as through aircrafts, ships, or containers. It is thus key to hold effective tracking and identifying mechanisms and to adopt a layered approach to aviation security in international airports.

With this approach in mind, UNODC and Interpol, as part of the AIRCOP project and thanks to funding from the Government of Japan, have delivered a series of virtual trainings to around 70 law enforcement officials operating at Iraqi international airports on tools and techniques to identify suspicious passengers and goods.

Airlines gather a large amount of passenger information, which, when used with full respect for relevant standards of data protection, privacy, and human rights, can provide significant insights on potential suspicious passengers. Specifically, a comprehensive analysis of passenger information against a specific set of criteria facilitates the identification of those passengers at the airport platform. Means and considerations for implementing these tools and techniques were presented by experts from the Brazilian Customs and AIRCOP during these trainings.

Experts from the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee also shared their experience and know-how on the integration of behavioral detection in airport security operations to recognize unusual or odd behaviours of potential high-risk passengers.

Similarly, international cooperation and the exchange of operational information are integral components of identification and interdiction operations at borders. The INTERPOL Regional Counter-Terrorism Network (RCTN) in the Middle East and Northern Africa and Project Sharaka provided additional hands-on training and practical exercises on the use of I-24/7 and other tools available at INTERPOL to strengthen the international response against movements of foreign terrorist fighters.

By gathering officers from different law enforcement agencies operating at Iraqi international airports, the 15 sessions delivered facilitated interactions among participants and allowed them to jointly explore methods to enhance and facilitate national cooperation and exchange of operational information. In his concluding remarks, General Zeyad Taha, Head of Training and Development Department at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior emphasized the importance and relevance of AIRCOP to further support Iraqi’s efforts in fighting organized crime and terrorism.

AIRCOP, implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO), aims at strengthening the capacities of international airports to detect and intercept drugs, other illicit goods, and high-risk passengers (including Foreign Terrorist Fighters), in origin, transit, and destination countries. AIRCOP also promotes intelligence and information sharing between services at the national and international level, as well as an intelligence-led approach to countering drug trafficking and other types of threats.

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