Written Answers. - Dublin Airport Security.

John O'Donoghue

Question:

59 Mr. O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to improve security at Dublin Airport to help combat drug trafficking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16530/95]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that 16 customs officials are assigned to the passenger terminal at Dublin Airport with responsibility, as part of their normal duties, for the detection and prevention of drug smuggling. Two specialist units of the Customs National Drugs Team, that is, an intelligence unit and a sniffer-dog unit are also assigned to the airport and these are engaged exclusively in combating drug smuggling both by air travellers and in commercial cargo.

Normal Customs checks are applied to passengers and their baggage arriving at Dublin Airport on flights from non-EU countries. Deputies will be aware, however, that in the Single Market, passengers from other EU countries — who represent the bulk of passenger traffic at the airport — cannot be required to clear Customs by entering the red or green channels and subjected to normal Customs checks. Certain checks on these passengers and their baggage — in particular, checks to prevent and detect drug smuggling — may be carried out, but they must be unobtrusive, selective and highly targeted. Similar criteria apply to Customs checks on cargo from other EU countries.

The Customs Service continuously monitors the movement of passengers and cargo through Dublin Airport and in particular the movement of known or suspected drug smugglers. Because of the constraints on intra-Community checks to which I have referred, Customs now relies on special measures, including intensive gathering of intelligence, close co-operation with airlines and air courier companies, direct personal and computer links to customs services in other jurisdictions, as well as profiling and risk analysis techniques to pinpoint suspect consignments and to target the smuggler or suspected smuggler. It also works in close collaboration with the Garda.

Because of the nature of the anti-drug smuggling measures now employed at Dublin Airport, the ordinary traveller from an EU country will generally be unaware of Customs activity and surveillance. The measures taken are nonetheless effective, as evidenced by the level of seizures made. Drugs with an estimated street value of over £1.8 million have been seized at Dublin Airport since 1993 and some of these have been quite substantial. Individual seizures made so far in 1995 include heroin with a street value of £270,000, cannabis resin with a street value of £150,000 and khat with a street value of £140,000.
In the circumstances, I am satisfied with the present level of security at Dublin Airport to combat drug trafficking. Arrangements are, of course, kept under review.