Would-be jihadi fighters are booking tickets on cruise ships to join extremists in battle zones in Syria and Iraq in an attempt to bypass efforts to stop them in neighbouring Turkey, Interpol officials have said.

The international police body is preparing to expand a pilot programme known as I-Checkit, under which airlines bounce passenger information off Interpol’s databases in the hope that the system could be expanded to include cruise operators, banks and hotels.

Turkey, with its long and often porous border with Syria, has been a major thoroughfare for many of the thousands of foreign fighters seeking to join extremists including Islamic State (Isis), which has captured territory across Iraq and Syria.

Speaking this week at Interpol’s general assembly in Monaco, outgoing chief, Ronald Noble, confirmed that Turkey was a destination, but declined to identify other countries. He also refused to indicate how many people might be involved, but called on countries to step up screening at all transportation hubs “airports and, more and more, cruise lines”.

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