Safe Airports for Safer Citizens: UNODC AIRCOP supports Iraq in addressing terrorism and organized criminal networks at airports

18th September 2019 - Baghdad, Iraq  

Terrorist and organized criminal operations have globally grown in complexity. As the number of air passengers are expected to double in the coming 20 years, airports and the connectivity offered by airlines are prone to exploitation by terrorist entities and organized criminal groups to spread their illicit and criminal activities trans-nationally.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted several Resolutions relevant for the fight against the travel of terrorists by air, including Resolution 2178 (2014) focused on stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) attempting to travel to conflict zones, Resolution 2396 (2017)  focused on returning and relocating FTFs as well as 2482 (2019), which addresses the link between terrorism and organized crime and includes further strong emphasis on air passenger data.


To support Iraq in implementing these Resolutions, the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP) implemented by UNODC in cooperation with Interpol and the World Customs Organization delivered its first training in Baghdad on "Frontline identification and interdiction of suspicious passengers" from 8 to 12 September 2019. This activity is the first step of a series of activities, thereby connecting it to a network of 34 other countries (40 airports) participating in the programme.

The workshop, delivered by experts from the INTERCOPS programme of the Brazilian Federal Police experts, aimed at strengthening the skills of law enforcement officers at Iraqi international airports for the identification and interdiction of suspicious passengers. The Brazilian experts shared their knowledge and experience on the verification of travel/identity documents, use of evidence-based risk assessments, the collection and analysis of travel data to identify individuals posing a possible threat, as well as screening procedures respecting national and international legal frameworks in terms of human rights and non-discrimination. 

The security architecture of Guarulhos International Airport, in Sao Paulo, Brazil was used as the basis for a case study, thereby allowing officials from various law enforcement agencies operating at the Iraqi international airports to learn about how a collaboration andpartnership network was established within and between Brazilian airports. Such inter-agency network, which is also one of the key pillars supported by AIRCOP at participating airports, enhances the ability and chances to detect and interdict suspicious passengers throughout the various points across the airport. 

During the opening ceremony, Mr. Akira Endo, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese Embassy, assured the continuous support of his country to the people of Iraq, which was illustrated by assistance to several projects related to strengthening Iraqi legislation in countering terrorism in the past five years. 

The event was marked by the wide presence of all relevant agencies, reflecting the commitment and willingness for collaboration with national institutions and with the international community. An on-site practical session at Baghdad international airport followed the classroom training, during which participants had the opportunity to reflect on their current practices and to discuss with experts the possible challenges and means of development; particularly in terms of passport control and luggage scanning.

Since the expansion of AIRCOP to the Middle East and North Africa in 2017, it has already delivered 30 national, regional and global activities to more than 500 operational frontline officers at international airports across the region. Such activities focused on strengthening frontline officers' capacity to perform advanced risk assessment of passengers traveling to and from their airports, on applying better profiling and investigative techniques, as well as facilitating operational information exchange and fostering cooperation between international airports of the region.