KLM bows to US pressure on passenger lists

12th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Dutch airline KLM has bowed to US demands and will in future apply America's 'no-fly list' to inspections of passenger details on flights passing through US airspace.

12 April 2005

AMSTERDAM — Dutch airline KLM has bowed to US demands and will in future apply America's 'no-fly list' to inspections of passenger details on flights passing through US airspace.

The decision was taken reluctantly to prevent American authorities refusing KLM planes permission to enter US airspace, newspaper 'De Telegraaf' reported on Tuesday.

In the past, KLM was only required to pass on passenger details to the US for flights to and from America. But in future, KLM will inspect its passenger list for American-identified terror suspects on all flights passing through US airspace.

KLM and the Dutch government disagreed with the US demand, but the airline has agreed to the intensified passenger checks based on financial concerns.

US authorities refused to allow a KLM plane to enter US airspace on Friday because it was carrying two passengers included on its 'no-fly list' of suspected terrorists. America uses a no-fly list with 70,000 names.

Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has since said there are different lists of terror suspects in circulation. He said the US uses a different list than Europe and has demanded this issue to be cleared up to prevent future problems.

The Mexico City-bound plane was above Canada when it was ordered to return to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Upon the jet's return to the Netherlands, the male suspects were not arrested at Schiphol and were flown via England back to Saudi Arabia, their land of origin, where they were not refused entry either.

The other 276 passengers were given accommodation in an Amsterdam hotel on Saturday before boarding another flight for Mexico. They arrived on Sunday.

A passenger identified only as F. Hennekens has been reported saying that there was no panic on board the flight, despite admitting there was some unrest. He said the pilot told passengers the plane had been refused entry, but did not provide any further information.

An indignant KLM later demanded the US explain how it gained access to passenger details, asserting that American authorities are only given restricted access to passenger details on US-bound flights.

It later emerged that the US might have been passed on the passenger list by Mexican authorities, who had been given passenger details by KLM. Mexico and the US have an agreement over the exchange of passenger details.

The claims were made on Monday night on television programme Nova by a journalist, Twan Huys, who underpinned his assertions with information from the US Department of Homeland Security.

US authorities allegedly have indications that al-Qaeda terrorists still want to hijack planes to carry out attacks in the US. Terrorists are allegedly targeting flights to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean islands.

Meanwhile, Dutch MPs were alarmed by the incident and questioned why the suspected terrorists were not arrested. They also called into question anti-terror agreements and the exchange of information with the US.

Some commentators expressed outrage that the flight was allowed to return to Europe with suspected terrorists on board, despite being refused passage through US airspace.

Journalist Huys said US authorities knew a dangerous situation could develop for passengers by ordering the plane to return. No one knew what — if anything — the two suspects were planning, but the US chose to refuse entry to the plane to prevent a threat to US targets.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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