Security audit results awaited at crime-hit Brussels National

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Audits have been completed at Brussels National Airport over security concerns following a spate of armed robberies of valuable items that has forced more than a dozen carriers to stop carrying such shipments at the Belgian hub.

Brussels International Airport Company (BIAC), which has faced criticism from the Association of European Airlines (AEA) over lax security, says the audit results are expected within weeks.

“According to the first information, Brussels airport meets all national and international security regulations,” says a spokesman for  the airport authority.

“However, should the audits prove that certain procedures have to be adapted, we will not fail to make the necessary modifications in accordance with the decisions the public authorities might take.”

The audits were carried out by a Brussels airport security committee, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and the European Civil Aviation Conference.

Sixteen European carriers, including British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Bmi British Midland and Swissair, have already stopped transporting valuable items -  in particular diamonds - over their concerns for the safety of passengers, crew and airport staff.

They have been demanding improved security measures at Brussels National since the first major robbery last October when an armed gang broke through perimeter fencing and stole a shipment of diamonds from a Lufthansa Airbus A319. It was followed in April by an attack on a Sabena ATR 72 arriving from Luxembourg.

According to BIAC, the airlines’ boycott is due to the fact that they could not reach agreement with the Belgian Government over the escorting of such shipment by the federal police. Belgian law, it says, states that the power of police is governed by the public authorities and urged the Belgian Government to take all necessary steps in the fight against this kind of crime.

The airport says it has invested heavily  to bring infrastructure and procedures in line with international regulations and claims the facility is as safe as any other similar European airport.

AEA general manager of security Rene Fennes says the situation needs to be addressed quickly to prevent further incidents of this nature.

“This is a grave situation and one that needs sorting out very quickly. We have expressed our concerns, urging improvements at Brussels for more than four years but there has been a lack of communication from both the airport authority and Belgian government.

“We will only adopt a wait and see attitude on the audits, but what is more important is implementing improvements and adapting security levels to a specific risk. We have hope that there is a willingness for improvement, but in weeks rather than months,” explains Fennes.

Diamond dealers are now using Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam as the main point for transporting goods in and out of Brussels.