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Israel’s mandatory biometric ID system causes issues, lineups at airports


In the first month of Israel’s mandatory biometric identity documents initiative, 15 percent of applicants requesting new passports or identity cards have declined having their fingerprints added to the database, according to a report by Haaretz.

Israel officially introduced the exclusive biometric passports and ID cards system on June 1, following several extensions of the pilot phase.

Under the new procedures, a high-resolution facial photograph is automatically stored in the database, while the applicant is given the option to submit their fingerprints.

Those applicants who refuse to submit their fingerprints are issued passports or identity cards that expire in five years instead of 10. Meanwhile, children under 16 do not have to submit their fingerprints to the database.

The Population and Immigration Authority said that 107,000 passports and 65,000 identity cards were issued in June.

The parliamentary oversight committee on the biometric database reported at a recent meeting that it had received a barrage of complaints from citizens who had difficulty obtaining the new documents.

Acting population authority director Amnon Shmueli said the situation in early June was “crazy,” but the situation eventually “calmed down” at the end of the month.

Shmueli said that 17 percent of applicants who tried to replace their documents still had valid documents.

He added that once the authority recognized the high demand, it moved to adopt a system of making appointments via email. However, information security issues led to the system only being adopted in three population bureaus.

He confirmed that the system will be operational in all of the nation’s bureaus by the end of July.

The MKs on the panel said that there had been several complaints about emails going answered, to which Shmueli responded by stating that applicants could call a telephone service line that would pass along a message to the bureau.

The population authority’s deputy director for administration and human resources, Naif Heno, said the authority had enlisted 100 new employees before the biometric rules were implemented.

In addition, 60 more clerks would begin work soon while another 30 employees will be added in early 2018.

The authority will also soon sign an agreement that would ensure the bureaus will offer reception hours four afternoons a week, rather than the current two.

The mandatory biometric ID law is also causing significant queues at Ben-Gurion International Airport for Israelis and tourists.

Those travelers with arriving flights have experienced delays of more than an hour this week to simply be processed at the passport control area before facing additional lines at baggage claim.

As part of the new mandatory biometric passport initiative, the number of counters controlled by clerks has been decreased and replaced by automated biometric devices that can read both biometric and ordinary passports.

However, the majority of travelers either do not know this information or do not know how to use the automated device.

Since there are only a minimal number of employees to assist these travelers, long lines began forming at Interior Ministry offices in the first week of June.

Shmuel said it takes about 15 minutes to issue a biometric ID or passport, which is three or four times the amount of time it takes for a standard document.

Yulia Malinovsky, a Yisrael Beiteinu MK who sat on the committee that debated the biometric law, said officials had insisted the law go into effect in June at the beginning of tourism season, when they should have waited until October after the season ends.

The Israel Airports Authority said it forecasted 2.1 million people to pass through Ben-Gurion, Israel’s main international airport in July, and 4.3 million travelers by the time the season ends on September 1.

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