24 November 2009

State-of-the-art gates speed 950,000 passengers through UK immigration

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Facial recognition technology at Britain’s airports has seen nearly one million legitimate passengers speed through immigration, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson announced today.

The state-of-the-art facial recognition technology, or e-Passport system, allows legitimate travelers to pass through UK immigration control quickly, giving UK Border Agency officers greater time to focus on high risk travelers and goods.

The UK Home Office confirmed that 950,000 passengers have used the self-service gates, with more than 50,000 passengers having used the gates at Gatwick since their introduction in August 2009.

Travelers have the choice between queuing at the traditional, staffed passport controls or using the self-service gates, which scan each passenger's face against the digital photo recorded in their passport.

If there is a positive match the gates open to allow the traveler across the border, while UK Border Agency officers staffing the gates can examine any passengers rejected by the technology or make manual checks where appropriate.

UK immigration has also introduced a fingerprint UK Visa, which checks entrants against immigration and crime databases, and is rolling out compulsory identification cards for foreign nationals living and working in the UK.

“In addition, the e-Borders system allows the UK Border Agency to count people in and out of the country and target terrorist suspects, criminals and would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK,” the Home Secretary said.

The facial recognition gates have proved popular and successful at Birmingham, Manchester, Stansted, Cardiff and Bristol Airports.

At Gatwick Airport, the facial recognition gates are just one of many technologies at use to secure the border. Other technology includes Cyclamen, which detects radiation in cargo at the border and Braun Conpass, a full body scanner which enables the UK immigration officers  to see if a passenger is carrying illegal weapons or drugs on their person.

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