Homeless man exposes flawed safety checks at Ruzyne Airport

05-03-2004

A breach of security at Prague's Ruzyne Airport has once again alerted officials to the need for constant vigilance. On Thursday a homeless man managed to slip past customs officials and board a plane with no trouble at all -showing just how easy it could be for a potential terrorist to bypass safety checks.

Ruzyne AirportRuzyne Airport The 56 year old man first entered the passengers' arrivals lounge and then passed through the customs area, walking past customs officers undeterred and getting onto a baggage conveyer belt which took him into the off-limits baggage area. He then walked to a nearby plane bound for Budapest, and hid in the plane's baggage section. The stowaway was only discovered by handling staff during final checks shortly before take off. The man was arrested and handed over to the police who ascertained that he had been trying to get to Switzerland where he had once lived. He appeared confused and was fined and released shortly after. For Ruzyne Airport however the incident was to have far more serious consequences. Finance minister Bohuslav Sobotka, whose ministry is responsible for customs administration, said heads would roll:

"This is something that I shall personally discuss with the general director of customs administration. The incident is regrettable and the officials responsible must be dismissed."

Shortly after the news broke, Ruzyne Airport expressed regret over the incident. "The customs officials on duty failed to do their job properly and we have since taken measures to further tighten security" airport spokeswoman Anna Kovarikova told journalists. The airport has allegedly installed two more security barriers and contacted international airport authorities to inform them about the incident. Despite the failing, the spokeswoman of Prague's main international airport insists that the airport's security levels meet strict international safety standards. Asked whether she could rule out a future security breach, she responded - "only God could give you guarantees".

05-03-2004