The e-Passport gates at the airport’s North Terminal were used by 289,604 passengers between April 2010 and the end of March 2011, an average of 24,133 per month. But since 1 April this year until the end of July an average of 43,068 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.
Carole Upshall, director, border force South and Europe, 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 Gatwick 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 15 UK airport terminals, are part of the biggest shake-up in UK border security for 40 years.
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 are just one of the hi-tech tools available to UK Border Agency officers to safeguard the UK against illegal immigration. Officers also use the e-Borders system which screens passengers before they reach the UK against a range of watchlists.
Over 126m passengers were processed last year through e-Borders resulting in 2,900 arrests. Since the system was established in 2005 over 9,500 arrests have been made and 1,588 people refused entry to the UK.