Gatwick gets iris recognition

Biometric border control

Warning: aircraft

Gatwick South has started using an iris recognition system - it is the ninth UK airport terminal to roll out the system.

Project IRIS(Iris Recognition Immigration System) is designed to give travellers resident in the UK, who have no black marks against their name on the immigration database, a means of avoiding normal immigration checks by having their eyes scanned instead.

The project has suffered a couple of delays - it was originally due to go live in 2005 and then pushed back to December 2006.

The UK plan is a trimmed down version of a broader European venture that will involve doing complete background checks and then giving preference to people with squeaky-clean life histories. The Home Office maintains, however, that the UK's IRIS system does not do complete background checks.

But the principle is much the same. Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said in a statement that IRIS "let positively vetted passengers travel faster".

And Liam Byrne should know. On 5 February he visited the iris recognition system in Birmingham and: "He took the opportunity to enrol in the system and use the automated arrival gate." And yesterday Liam Byrne went to Gatwick and, the Government News Network tells us: "He took the opportunity to enrol in the system and use the automated arrival gate."

The Home Office said in a statement that 82,000 people had registered for IRIS since it was installed at Heathrow last January. Those travellers had used the system in 360,000 border crossings at Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4, Manchester Terminals 1 and 2, Birmingham Terminal 1, and Gatwick North. 12.2 million travellers passed through the UK's main airports in April alone. ®

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