BelPIU: collection and processing of the passenger data

The Passenger Information Unit (BelPIU), operational since January 15th 2018, fulfils one of the four main operational missions of the Crisis Centre. It collects, stores and processes international passenger’s data. The BelPIU is a multidisciplinary organisation in which analysts from the Federal Police, the State Security, Military Intelligence and the Customs work together. Its purpose? Analysing passenger data in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. 

Fight against terrorism and serious crime

After the Paris attacks (2015), the federal government announced the development of a Belgian PNR system amongst the 18 priority measures for the fight against terrorism and serious crime. Suspects of terrorist offences or other serious violations often follow specific travel behaviours which evolve quickly. Passenger data play an important part in identifying travel movements, collection of evidence and dismantlement of suspicious networks. 

This objective has now become a reality : within the Crisis Centre, the Belgian Passenger Information Unit (BelPIU) collects, stores and processes passenger data using international transportation from, to or via Belgium, intra or extra-EU. Those data are used in the framework of the fight against terrorism and serious crime (drug trafficking, human trafficking, child trafficking, cybercrime, forgery, rape, murder, industrial espionage…). The sectors it applies to are air transport, international high speed trains transport, international bus transport, international maritime transport of passengers and travel agencies. 

The BelPIU is operational since 15 January 2018: it is therefore one of the first operational PIU’s in Europe! The operational part began with the air sector which transports 32 million people each year from, to or via Belgium. 

Early April 2018, the BelPIU was already receiving about 28% of those passenger data. And this number increases every week: this rate should reach 70 to 80% at the end of 2018. This without taking into account passenger data collected by the other international transport sectors that the BelPIU will receive, starting from 2019. 

Unique collaboration

The BelPIU consists of a Director, an operational team with analysts and seconded experts from four authorities designated as competent by the law ¨ [the Federal Police, the State Security, the General Intelligence and Security Service and the Customs] as well as a support team consisting of legal officers, experts in charge of the relations with the carriers and office managers. 

Gathering all passenger data in the same database gives the possibility to connect a larger number of information and allows therefore the improvement of the collaboration between the various competent authorities for the fight against serious offences. 

Passenger data keep coming in continuously: 48 hours before departure and at time of gate closure for each concerned flight, thanks to the connexion established with each operator during an implementation process led in good collaboration.

The data are analysed by the operational team in real time, on the basis of previously defined criteria, correlated with various databases of wanted persons and used for targeted searches. 

API and PNR data

Carriers have to send the passenger data they are already collecting in the normal course of their business to the BelPIU. This implies reservation data (name, contact information, billing information,…) also named “PNR data” as well as data appearing on an authentic document such as an ID or a passport, named “API data” (name, day of birth, passport number,…). API data are verified data but are often only collected by the carriers in case of extra-EU travels. 

Legal base

  • Law of 25 December 2016 on the use of passenger data
  • European Directive of 27 April 2016 on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of terrorist offences and serious crime. 
  • The Royal Decree of 18 July 2017 which executes the PNR law for the air sector
  • The Royal Decree of 21 December 2017 which organises the BelPIU

I am preparing for international travel  

What are the consequences for me, as a passenger, of the law on the processing of passenger data? Find all information here