Airport biometric scanners ‘failing to protect Britain’s borders’, whistleblower claims

Britain’s airport biometric scanners have failed to flag up people on watch lists and even allowed one man to enter on his sister’s passport, an investigation has found. A UK Border Agency whistle-blower claimed border controls have become compromised by a greater reliance on biometric technology, known as e-Gates, which have replaced trained immigration staff. Since 2006, a chip has been inserted into British passports, which carry biometric and biographical details about the holder and is presented into a “reader” at an airport.

The information is verified by a facial recognition camera and if the information is correct the gates open. It is overseen by a border official but there are no physical checks of the passport itself.

The technology is currently being trialled at 10 terminals across the country including in London, Cardiff, the East Midlands and Manchester.

But the whistle-blower, who did not want to be identified, claimed the system was plagued by a number of weaknesses.

These included not being able to read Dutch or Lithuanian passports at Stansted airport until recently while an unidentified man was able to proceed through Manchester airport using his sister’s passport.

“You will see a greater degree of breaches, you will see organised crime, terrorists and immigration offenders increasingly becoming aware of the problems… that exists and using that to their advantage,” the whistleblower told ITV’s Tonight programme, which undertook the investigation.

“The ideal security system combines experienced staff with what you can get out of technology,” said Damian Green, the Immigration Minister.

“Because, of course, what you are doing, particularly at airports, is not just stop a few people coming in, which is a major part of the job.

“But to make it quick and easy for the respectable 99 percent who are trying to get through that airport. So it’s the combination of technology and human experience that keeps our borders secure. “

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