Airlines and shipping companies may soon be responsible for reporting passenger lists in advance to immigration authorities if a proposal to the European Union is accepted, writes David Learmount.

Included in the proposal is a maximum penalty of more than €50,000 ($64,000) for transmitting passenger data that is wrong or incomplete, even if the carrier does not know it is wrong.

The proposal was submitted by Spain to the EU Council of Ministers with a view to curbing illegal immigration, but a report on the proposal by the UK's House of Lords has rubbished the proposal as "a half-baked idea that is unlikely to reduce illegal immigration significantly".

Meanwhile, responsibility for immigration formalities would shift from the authorities to the carriers, which the committee says is unjustified, and "would cause massive disruption to millions of passengers...and create substantial extra costs for carriers". UK-based Britannia Airways claims it would increase check-in from 2h to 5h. In addition, the report notes, airlines do not at present own the equipment necessary to process such reports.

The committee says: "We believe that the application of the Directive to the borderless Schengen area [within the EU] would be disproportionate to its objective. It would in effect re-introduce border checks through the back door."

The advance passenger details required would include:

The type of travel document and its identification number; nationality; full names; date of birth; the border crossing point of entry into the EU; code of transport; departure and arrival time; total number of passengers carried; initial point of embarkation.

Source: Flight International