Citizens, prison guards, Defense to help at Schiphol in busy summer period

Long lines at Schiphol airport, 23 Apr 2017
Long lines at Schiphol airport, 23 Apr 2017Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

Schiphol Airport is getting help from various government services as well as citizens this busy summer period, State Secretary Sharon Dijksma of Infrastructure announced on Friday. "We are doing everything to prevent repetition", she said to the Telegraaf, referring to massive crowds, delays and long lines at the airport during the May holidays. 

About 50 people from the Department of Judicial Institutions, which usually work in prisons, will be available for Schiphol to deploy. Defense is also deploying parts of the army to help with vehicle checks at the border and in ports. The Koninklijke Marechaussee officers working in these areas can then be deployed to the airport. 

"It will still be busy. People will have to wait, but you really don't have to arrive a day in advance if you want to make a flight", Dijksma said. 

The Koninklijke Marechaussee - a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military and is responsible for border control, including security at airports and ports - will also deploy unarmed citizen reserves to help with passport checks, NOS reports. These citizens went for a six-week training program to prepare them for this task. A test is currently underway using a small number of these reserves, but the Marechaussee plans to expand that number quickly.

The Marechaussee union is furious about this decision, president Sven Schuitema said to AD. He called it a "life threatening" situation. "Border control is not a subject you can be taught in six weeks. The work requires experience and a keen eye for suspicious behaviors, also in the line for passport control. This reservist wears a uniform, but no weapon", he said to the newspaper. "That's a risk because he can come face to face with a terrorist or returning jihadist. If an attack threatens, he can do nothing."

A spokesperson for the Marechaussee confirmed the use of unarmed citizen reserves, but emphasized that all reservists work in partnership with an armed Marechaussee officer. "Indeed you can't learn to be a Marechaussee in six week, for that reason we will see after the test what skills are still lacking."

Schools in Midden-Nederland are starting summer vacation on Friday. Schiphol already implemented a number of extra measures to prepare for this busy season, including deploying extra security employees, opening extra gates and creating a separate security check line for passengers traveling without hand luggage. The airport also has extra IT employees on permanent standby, to intervene in case of computer problems.