PARIS (AP) — Cruise ship operators share "watch-list" information with Interpol, U.S. intelligence agencies and other authorities on suspected criminals, including would-be jihadi fighters trying to travel to battle zones of Syria and Iraq, officials and industry analysts said Friday.
The comments come a day after Interpol officials told The Associated Press that would-be jihadis have been increasingly booking trips on cruise ships to join radical groups such as Islamic State, hoping to bypass intensified border checks at airports in countries such as neighboring Turkey.
One Turkish official said in an interview Friday that Interpol had not flagged any such recent jihadi route changes in favor of cruise travel to Turkish authorities. The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive matters, said Turkey noted a few such cases last year, but "no more than five."
Some European countries say Turkey has not done enough to stop the flow of jihadis through its territory to Syria. Ankara, meanwhile, has requested — and not always obtained — better information from European countries about possible jihadi travelers, the Turkish official said, insisting that they also should do more.
"If there is anyone on that cruise ship with suspicious aims, we would expect first and foremost that the country from wherever they depart would prevent them from leaving," the official said. "A foreign terror fighter on a cruise ship is very easy to identify."
The official said Turkey has stringent border control policies in place and has sought information such as names, photos, even biometric information and suspected affiliated jihad-feeder networks. In April, the official said, Turkey asked Interpol members for information about any people suspected of traveling there for "ill-intentions."
Michael Crye, a U.S.-based consultant to the maritime industry, said international rules require cruise ship operators to provide electronic manifests to authorities, who can check them against watch lists. Interpol's database of foreign fighters, which started 18 months ago, includes 1,300 names, according to its figures from September.
"Cruise ships also have proactive relationships with Interpol and others as well as U.S. intelligence agencies sharing watch list information," Crye said in an email.
Ronald Noble, who was replaced after a 14-year stint as Interpol secretary general by Germany's Juergen Stock on Friday, told the AP a day earlier in Monaco at the police body's annual meeting that data it has collected show a rising number of reports that cruise ships are being used to reach "launch pads" for travel to Syria and Iraq.