European Governments Take Aim At U.S. Pre-Clearance Facilities In Protest Of Immigration Policies

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New U.S. policies in regards to Immigration and border protection have stirred controversy and several governments whose countries host U.S. Customs Pre-Clearance facilities are now taking issue with it.

Pre-Clearance facilities allow passengers to be processed by customs and border protection on foreign soil and depart from a secured area of the airport, then arriving in the U.S. like a domestic flight.

The first of these facilities have existed in Canada, the Caribbean and then expanded to Europe (Ireland) and now the Middle East (Abu Dhabi). The Netherlands also started talks about such a facility in Amsterdam, but it seems like these plans have now been put to rest.

Reuters (see here) reported last week that the Dutch have aborted talks and the Irish are reviewing the agreement.

The Dutch government said on Tuesday it had ended talks with the United States over allowing “pre-clearance” of passengers travelling from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport following President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration.

Pre-clearance allows passengers to clear U.S. customs and immigration before they fly, reducing delays when they land. The Dutch government said in December it was in talks with the U.S. government to introduce the practice at Schiphol.

But during a debate with parliament about the Trump administration’s weekend decision to ban travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said those talks had now been ended.

On Monday, Ireland said following Trump’s move the practice was under review at Irish airports.

Apart from making a stand I don’t see what this is going to accomplish. These facilities are usually installed to make local airports more attractive to travelers and airlines offering an advantage over departures from regular airport where U.S. departures would be processed at the port of entry overseas.

The Reuters article in regards to the Irish discussion can be found here.

Ireland will conduct a complete review of U.S. customs pre-clearance arrangements at its airports following the concern caused by President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration, the government said on Monday.

Ireland’s Dublin and Shannon airports are among a handful of locations outside North America where passengers can clear customs and immigration before traveling to the United States under an international agreement between the two governments. …

“I have asked for a complete review of the pre-clearance facilities here in Ireland. I would say that pre-clearance has been of enormous convenience, so these are issues that we are happy to negotiate upon,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

In a statement, the government added that “there is obviously concern” about the change in the U.S. immigration rules introduced by the new administration, and that Dublin had contacted the U.S. government about the matter.

The Irish government wants to convene a meeting as soon as possible to discuss the recent developments, the statement said.

There has so far been one case where a person was refused pre-clearance to the United States at either airport, a spokesman for the department of transport said. …

Just a day after calling for a review of this practice and associated facilities the Irish government backpaddled according to this updated report, saying that the cabinet is in full support of U.S. Pre-Clearance in Ireland.

Ireland’s cabinet is fully in favor of retaining U.S. customs pre-clearance arrangements at the country’s airports, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Tuesday, a day after calling for a review of the arrangements. …

Kenny has ordered a complete review of the arrangements following what the government described as the concern caused by President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration that are being carried out by U.S. officials at the two airports.

“The cabinet this morning were very fully in favor of retaining our pre-clearance and the Attorney General has confirmed that the issue in so far as the legality is concerned is a matter entirely for the United States courts,” Kenny told parliament.

This pretty much confirms that the PM’s first statement was nothing more than a populist speech just for the sake of saying something even if it doesn’t make any sense.

After that announcement he might have gotten briefed upon the fact that without the pre-clearance facilities, the use of the Irish airports for U.S. Departures by connecting passengers from Europe would pretty much cease and Ireland as well as the airports would lose a good chunk of revenue.

I can imagine the General Managers of Shannon and Dublin Airport have made a few calls to the Prime Ministers office after that announcement.

Politics of the whole matter aside, it’s usually the host country that pays a large chunk of the associated cost that comes with an overseas CBP pre-clearance facility simply for the reasons outlined above. It really saves a lot of time going through the immigration process before your departure and then arrive as a cleared flight at the destination in the U.S.

Bear in mind the staffing expense alone is a lot as these CBP officers get paid extra for being stationed overseas.

Conclusion

I doubt the U.S. Government or CBP would care at all if these Pre-Clearance facilities in Europe would shut down. After all they ease just a tiny fraction of the traffic and the airports could very well handle these few additional flights as international arrivals in the U.S. as well.

From a consumer perspective, I can’t see why I would use a connection via Dublin or Shannon if it weren’t for this benefit. Even now I consider it a complete waste of time if you’re able to use Global Entry or Mobile Entry to clear U.S. Immigration. All such a shutdown would do is to take the edge away from these airports even further. As far as Amsterdam is concerned, this decision will accomplish just that on the expense of KLM and their partner Delta. Others might disagree but I just find Schiphol horrible to begin with so no loss there. Question is: Is KLM happy about this move?

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