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German interior minister calls for 'travel registry' in Europe

EU countries should record data on visitors entering the visa-free area in Europe, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said. "We want to know who is coming," he added.

The new travel registry would boost the security of European nations, de Maiziere said in interview "Die Welt" published on Saturday.

Specifically, the interior minister referred to the so-called

Schengen visa-free zone,

which currently incorporates 28 European countries, most of which are EU members. According to de Maiziere, officials need to gather data on the visitors from countries outside the Schengen zone.

The database would include the time and the place of entry for non-Schengen nationals, as well as their exit point.

"Right now, we issue visas. However, there is no record to show if the individual is actually arriving (to a Schengen country) or actually leaving," de Maiziere said. "A new system involving biometric data and visa records could warn us when a third-party citizen overextends his stay.

"We want to know who is coming to the Schengen area and when are they leaving," he told "Die Welt" newspaper.

This data is required for fighting "international terrorism, gangs and illegal migration," de Maiziere added.

In addition to the proposed Schengen registry, de Maiziere also said the EU should focus more on

protecting its external borders

and integrating the existing visa and migration databases.

The head of Germany's federal police (BKA), Holger Münch, also said Europe needed to establish a network to keep track of Islamist militants who may have returned to the continent after fighting in Iraq or Syria.

"These people got to know one another in Iraq or Syria and are maintaining their contacts and relationships here in Europe," he told the German Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), a German consortium of regional daily newspapers.

dj/sms (KNA, dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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