Some have suggested profiling passengers could aid German airport security  [GALLO/GETTY] 

Germany's justice minister has dismissed a call by the incoming head of the German airports association for Israeli-style passenger profiling to be instituted at airports.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger on Wednesday warned that such techniques, where passengers are categorised as high or low risk based on, among other things, their ethnic background, might fall foul of German and European law.

"Passengers could be stigmatised if they are systematically sorted into different groups based on their origin or religion," she was quoted by the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper as saying.

She indicated that such a scheme would require the collection of large amounts of personal data.

Security risk

A day earlier, Christoph Blume, who is set to take over the helm of the national airports association in January, said that he wanted to introduce the profiling of passengers in German airports in a bid to improve security checks.

"In this way, the security systems can be more effectively used to benefit all those involved," Blume, who is the chief executive of Dusseldorf airport, told the Rheinische Post newspaper on Tuesday.

"Passengers [in Israel] are put into various risk groups," he was quoted as saying.

"Safe customers on whom there is sufficient data and who regularly fly the same route are not checked as much as passengers on whom there is little or no data."

Blume's comments drew criticism from other politicians including Wolfgang Bosbach, the head of the committee of interior affairs in the German parliament.

The Frankfurter Rundschau cited a spokesman for the interior ministry as saying: "Very good work is already being done at airports today."

Some support

But others have voiced support for Blume's demands.

The German news service Deutsche Welle quoted Joerg Handwerg, a spokesman for the pilot's association Cockpit as saying: "The Israelis already very successfully do psychological profiling based on asking people where they are going and paying attention to psychological reactions, like if the people become nervous."

Elsewhere, the International Air Transport Association has proposed a similar strategy under which passengers would be screened to a degree linked to the amount known about them. The idea is to be debated among IATA members next year.

In November, Theresa May, the British interior minister, announced plans to introduce tougher vetting for passengers booking from potentially hostile countries or who pay for their tickets in cash.

Source: Agencies