More passengers embracing hi-tech border controls at Birmingham airport

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More passengers travelling to the UK via Birmingham Airport are choosing to use hi-tech facial recognition gates to clear border control.

The e-Passport gates were used by 171,705 passengers at Birmingham Airport between April 2010 and the end of March 2011, an average of 14,309 passengers per month. But since 1 April this year until the end of July an average of 20,833 passengers have used the e-Passport gates each month.

The state-of-the-art gates, which can be used by anyone with a UK or European ‘chipped’ passport who is aged 18 or over, use facial recognition technology to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport. Their details are then automatically checked against our systems and watchlists – just as if they were seen by an officer. Once the checks are made, the gates open automatically to allow the passenger through the border.

The system is monitored at all times by officers from the UK Border Agency and anyone rejected by the gates will be sent to an alternative channel to have their passport checked.

Alex Lawther, assistant director, UK Border Agency said:

‘Britain’s border security controls are among the toughest in the world. More than 200 million people cross the UK border each year and our priority is to ensure the border remains secure in the face of threats like smuggling and illegal immigration, while making legitimate travel and trade easier.

‘By using the latest technology such as e-Passport gates at Birmingham Airport we are providing a secure and convenient self-service alternative to the conventional border to allow passengers with a biometric passport to pass through the border securely.’

So far more than 4.5 million people across the country have used the gates at UK airports since they first went live at Manchester Airport in 2008.

The gates have now been extended to London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports which means the automated border controls now cover all the major airports in the country.

The facial recognition gates, which have been introduced at fifteen UK airport terminals, are part of the biggest shake-up in UK border security for 40 years.

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