A technical glitch with the electronic gate system caused chaos at airports across the UK on Saturday 27th. A glitch caused automatic passport scanning gates to stop working, forcing passengers to check their passports manually.
The Home Office, the government agency responsible for immigration and borders, said it was working to fix “a problem with the border system across the country”, although it did not provide details on what was causing the problem. Airport operators asked for patience and apologized for the delay.
Long queues were recorded at airports such as Manchester in the north of England and Heathrow in London, Europe’s busiest airport. The problem comes at what is expected to be a busy weekend at airports around the country, with the long weekend coinciding with the start of the holiday week for most schools in the UK.
One of the victims was a passenger named Mark Barrett. He told the BBC he had booked a flight from Chicago to Manchester via Heathrow, but the flight had been cancelled. He tried to leave the airport to catch a train and ended up in a long passport mess.
“It’s complete chaos at passport control,” he said. “People were so frustrated that some tried to jump the queue. The police had to step in and one of the passengers fainted.
The problems, which began on the night of Friday 26th, are automated self-service barriers designed to speed up the processing of travel documents at electronic passport gates. Using facial recognition technology, the system verifies the passenger’s identity against data stored in the passport.
The Home Office says there are now 270 gates at 15 air and rail ports in England. The Home Office reports that 86% of people entering the UK each year are eligible to use electronic gates.
Heathrow and other airports have pledged to do what they can to ease congestion. “We are aware of a national issue affecting eGates operated by Border Force,” Heathrow said in a statement. “This issue affects many ports of entry and is not unique to Heathrow. Our teams are working closely with Border Force to help resolve the issue quickly, and we have additional colleagues to manage queues and provide passenger well-being. Source: Associated Press.
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