UK government report criticises iris scanning e-gates

A report by the UK’s Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the UK Border Agency’s IRIS biometric scanning system, saying the £9 million would have been better spent on employing additional immigration staff.

IRIS was introduced in UK airports in 2006 to automate and speed up the processing of passengers through passport control, but enrolment for the scheme was halted earlier this year.

Manchester and Birmingham airports have already turned off their IRIS e-gates, and Heathrow and Gatwick airports have announced that they will do the same after the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer.

The report states that the money spent on the IRIS system “could have been better spent on border staff – at least 60 immigration officers could have been employed with the money spent on IRIS.”

It adds: “It has been alleged that some of the machines, including iris scanners, are malfunctioning and that the agency staff have actively discouraged people from using e-gates. Members of the committee have seen for the themselves the closure of this facility and confusion of staff about how to manage and direct the flow of travellers, with staff only able to advise that ‘it’s not working’.”

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  1. Mark Scott

    London Gatwick has already removed the machines!

    As a user of the IRIS system, I can’t disagree more with this finding. It was the best technology I have seen and used. The queues were never longer than two people(despite the claimed malfunctions) which potentially supports the waste of money but everyone I know who used it was were huge fans. Perhaps the service wasn’t promoted enough.

    I can’t agree with the claim that the immigration staff didn’t like system as they complained to me about the new delays caused by their removal.

    What used to take me 5 minutes with the IRIS system was replaced by 45 minutes the last two times I have returned. This is the effect for UK and other nationals.

  2. Tommy Byrne

    I agree with Mark’s comment above… However, you will see a marked difference in opinion after the Olympics when the lines are unbearable ! So if the service is properly marketed, rather than word of mouth, which is how I heard about it, it would take off !

    Let me address the Math above… if you took the £9 million ALREADY spent and divided it by 60 new employees since it started in 2006…. that equals £25k per employee a year for the past six years…. Your money is now gone and so would those jobs be and you are back at SQUARE ONE !! Not a long term solution, is it ?? !!