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Concerns at UK border over EES app wait, facial recognition screening of migrants

Concerns at UK border over EES app wait, facial recognition screening of migrants
 

An app that is supposed to streamline the upcoming European Union’s Entry-Exit System (EES) will not be ready on time, sparking concerns over massive queues at the border with the United Kingdom.

CEO of Eurostar Gwendoline Cazenave revealed the delay last week, noting that the railway service plans to install more than 49 kiosks at London’s St Pancras station to facilitate passport checks. That is the number of biometric kiosks Eurostar said in February would be needed to stave off “unacceptable passenger delays.”

The EES scheme, which requires non-EU passport holders to register fingerprint and facial biometrics, is expected to be in operation on October 6th. The European Commission and Frontex have been developing a mobile application for pre-registration that could help avoid long lines at the border but the timeline for the launch is still uncertain.

The Eurostar boss has attempted to reassure the public, saying that they are “sure they will deploy it soon,” the BBC reports. But other border crossings are also bracing for long queues and delays.

Getlink, the company operating the Channel Tunnel between France and the UK, will build new processing areas at Folkestone and Calais to handle the upcoming scheme. The UK border crossing that is likely to experience the most disruptive delays, however, is the Port of Dover.

The port could face significant issues because of the volume of vehicles and space constraints. Kent Council County leader Roger Gough and Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister warned the UK government last week that the EES implementation could ultimately lead to supply chain disruptions in the UK, Kent Live News reports.

“The increase in the number of booths, enhanced staffing and the detailed modeling undertaken to determine the impact of the forecasted flows of traffic is well thought out and will be critical to allowing passengers and freight to pass through the border as quickly and effectively as possible,” says Gough. “It will also help to mitigate the potential disruption in and around Dover.”

Meanwhile, the Port of Dover said it is “investing in new processes and operating areas” that should be in place by October 6th. In March, P&O Ferries’ director of ports operations at Dover called for postponing the EES rollout again.

Dover might get migrant facial recognition

Aside from the usual influx of goods and tourists, the Port of Dover is also facing an increased amount of migrants arriving in the UK. The UK government’s terrorism advisor Jonathan Hall KC wants to implement live facial recognition to screen migrants against a database of terror suspects.

The Independent Reviewer of State Threat Legislation plans to recommend introducing the technology in migrant processing facilities in Kent in this year’s annual report, according to The Independent.

Record numbers of 6,200 people have crossed the English Channel since the start of the year, many arriving in small boats. The “small boat” crisis has become a political flash point during the upcoming UK elections but it is also proving to be a heavy load on the Dover port.

Some of the migrant processing centers have become so overwhelmed, that people had to be released before all checks have been completed, says Hall. Border staff have been unable to anticipate the surges of people crossing the Channel because of the complex situation.

“The tricky thing with that is that a lot of people can suddenly arrive on one day, and if lots arrive on one day, how are counterterrorism police going to have the opportunity to screen them?” he says.

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