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Passengers travelling back to the UK via Bristol Airport are today being urged to use facial recognition gates now installed at the airport.
The state of the art machines, which scan passengers' faces and check them against their passport photo, will add to border security and efficiency at arrivals.
The facial recognition gates allow a smooth, efficient journey through the UK’s border for legitimate passengers while making it more difficult for criminals and illegal migrants to get into the country.
The gates have proved popular at Manchester and Stansted, where the first phase of the trial was launched. Over half a million passengers have used the service so far.
The machine takes seconds to scan each passenger's face against the digital photo recorded in their passport. If there is a match, the automatic gates allow the traveller across the border.
The gates can be used by any UK or European passenger aged over 18 who has a new e-passport with an electronic chip, providing travellers with an automated, secure route through the border.
UK Border Agency Chief Executive Lin Homer said:
“Britain’s border security is among the toughest in the world and by using new technology we are making the border even more secure.
"The facial recognition gates at Bristol will improve our service to the public and help to make the UK safer."
“We have also introduced fingerprint visas which check everyone who wants to come to the UK against immigration and crime databases, ID Cards for foreign nationals and the £1.2bn e-Borders system which targets terrorist suspects, criminals and would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK.”
The gates have been operational since 26 August as part of the Home Secretary’s pledge to roll-out facial recognition gates at ten UK terminals by the end of August. Bristol was the first airport to go live this year, after Manchester and Stansted trialled similar technology in 2008.
The gates are being run in partnership between the UK Border Agency and Bristol International Airport.
Alison Roberts, Terminal General Manager at Bristol International Airport, said:
“In the long term we aim to increase the space available for immigration control, and our development plans include proposals to extend the existing terminal building to reduce bottlenecks in this area.
“However, the use of new technology can help improve today’s passenger experience, providing a positive first impression to visitors arriving in the UK.”
The system measures points on a person's face and compares them with the digital passport photograph.
The gates undertake checks against security watch-lists in the same way as the current manual control.
UK Border Agency officers continue to oversee the gates and intervene if they have any suspicions. Passengers will also be subject to random manual checks.
The gates allow officers extra time to concentrate on high-priority risks and intelligence-led operations.
The facial recognition system is voluntary and can be used by any UK or European passenger aged over 18 carrying a new biometric passport. No registration is required to use the gates.
More than 17 million biometric passports, which contain a facial image, have been issued in the UK since their introduction in 2006.
The facial recognition gates, which have been introduced at ten UK airport terminals, are part of the biggest shake-up in UK border security for 40 years.
Every visa applicant is fingerprinted and checked against a range of immigration, crime and terrorism watch-lists before they set foot in the UK, while the ongoing roll-out of ID cards for foreign nationals locks those here to one identity.
The new £1.2bn e-Borders system is helping the UK Border Agency target terrorist suspects, known criminals and would-be illegal immigrants before they can reach the UK.
e-Borders will enable the Agency to count people in and out of the country with 60 per cent of all passenger and crew movements captured by December 2009, 95 per cent by December 2010 and all passengers by 2014.
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