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UAE introduces new API system to tighten security at airport

UAE introduces new API system to tighten security at airport

DUBAI: UAE has introduced a new Advanced Passenger Information (API) system to tighten security at country’s airports.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Future of Borders event in Dubai, Laila Hareb Al Muhairi, assistant director general Strategy and International Affairs at the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said that the system will help authorities assess risks about the passengers who are arriving and departing from the country.

Those deemed high-risk or found to have a criminal case will be prevented from boarding the flight to the UAE or apprehended at the airport, she said. It will also be applied to passengers arriving by sea or land.

The API system, first announced in 2012, became operational late last year and is being operated by two centres, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Working along with Interpol and other international security agencies, the system captures and compiles data from several outlets including border authorities and online bookings.

The centres then conduct a risk assessment of the passengers. The system sends out three messages – ok to board, not allowed to board and on probation – which means the passenger requires further scrutiny.

Al Muhairi refused to divulge the number of cases apprehended so far, but said most of them dealt with issues such as bounced cheques, customs cases or changed passports. “We have managed our borders more efficiently since we implemented it,” she said.

In terms of suspected terrorists, those identified internationally will be apprehended, she added.

The Ministry of Interior, police, customs, and residency departments will benefit directly from the system, while airports and airlines will also be aided indirectly.

“The new system enhances security, monitors and tracks transit passengers, provides accurate passenger charges collections, and makes it faster for low-risk passengers,” Al Muhairi said

With the UAE’s airports seeing increased passenger traffic, officials are seeking to strike a balance between enforcing tight security while offering enhanced customer service.

Dubai International Airport alone welcomed 70.4 million passengers last year, beating London Heathrow to become the busiest airport in the world.

Dubai also aims to increase the number of visitors entering the emirate, from roughly 11 million per year at present to 20 million annually by 2020. The city will also host the six-month World Expo during the same year, which alone is estimated to draw in 25 million visitors.