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Internal Investigation by the UKBA Slows Immigration for Non-EU Nationals

February 13, 2012


Due to an ongoing investigation by the UK Border Agency, London’s busiest airport, Heathrow, may not get its facial recognition technology in time for the Olympics as previously planned, according to the Financial Times

BAA, Heathrow’s owner, was given the approval last July to install what is called an “e-gate” allowing registered non-European Union nationals to pass through electronic immigration controls quickly.

With the 2012 Olympics, BAA expects an influx of passengers making the usual passenger numbers to be 45 percent higher than usual.

As reported by The Register, a spokesperson for BAA said in a statement: “BAA has installed new automated immigration clearance gates at all Heathrow terminals to improve queuing times for passengers.”

However, the e-gates have been suspended since an internal investigation by the UK Border Agency has come up.

According to the Financial Times (News - Alert), Brodie Clark, head of the UK Border Force, a subdivision of the border agency, resigned after a scandal erupted over the relaxation of border controls at UK ports during the busy summer period last year.

“We could be ready [in time for the Olympics] but this is entirely within the hands of government and what their strategy is, is unclear,” said John Holland-Kaye, BAA’s commercial director.

A spokesperson for BAA also noted, “UKBA is responsible for border security and has been working to bring these new gates online but has paused this process while it completes internal investigations.”

BAA plans to use the e-gates versus the Iris which was a popular iris-scanning technology, started in 2005, to speed up the immigration process.

Unfortunately, BAA has already invested £8 million installing the infrastructure at all five of its terminals which are now on delay. With the delay, non-Europeans can expect to wait in a line for two to three hours during peak times.

Jo Valentine, chief executive of London Frist, the business lobby, told the Financial Times, “UKBA needs to get its act together and use its resources, together with new technologies, so that legitimate visitors can get in swiftly and painlessly.”

For those planning to visit the 2012 London Olympics, the UK has begun processing Visitor visas and it is recommended to apply as soon as possible.

Jordan Eggers has five years of writing experience and has written pieces for various print outlets and websites. Currently living abroad, she is working as a freelance writer and enjoys keeping up-to-date on everything new happening in technology.

Edited by Jennifer Russell