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Dutch, USA to start airport biometric data checks

REUTERS | May 23, 2005

THE HAGUE – Dutch and U.S. authorities will screen air travellers using biometric data, such as iris scans, in a pilot project to increase security, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Monday.

The project, in which travellers can pass border controls with a biometric card without additional questioning or screening, is expected to start in the autumn at New York's JFK airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

'We are talking about a voluntary system using people who want to be in a green lane ... if they are willing to volunteer to have a certain amount of background checking and to submit a biometric, like a fingerprint,' Chertoff told reporters.

Chertoff, on his first visit to Europe as Homeland secretary, said the biometric data would be used 'so that we can verify who they are and we can go through the process of assuring ourselves that the people in question do not pose a danger, are not terrorists.'

Each country will authorise a 'trusted group' of travellers to participate in the pilot, dubbed 'expedited traveller programme', Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said.

This is the first time that such a pilot programme will be launched between the United States and a European country, a spokesman at the Dutch justice ministry said.

Chertoff is on a four-day trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain in which he also hopes to overcome European privacy concerns about releasing air traveller information before take off to prevent planes from being diverted.

Washington wants all 27, mostly European, countries whose citizens do not need a visa to enter the United States on a 90-day trip to issue new passports containing a computer chip with a digital photograph of the holder by Oct. 26.

U.S. security concerns have caused two transatlantic flights to be diverted

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