The UK government plans to spend £1.2bn on its e-Borders programme over the next decade, as the electronic passenger-screening system is fully implemented.
The e-Borders programme requires ferry companies and airlines to submit detailed information about passengers prior to departure to or from the UK. Names that arouse suspicion can then be investigated by the Border and Immigration Agency, HMRC, Police and UK Visas before travellers have embarked on their journey.
The programme is more than two-thirds of the way through its 39-month trial period, which kicked off back in December 2004. Despite still being in its test phase, e-Borders has so far screened 29 million passengers and issued 13,000 alerts which have resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, according to the Home Office.
Immigration minister Liam Byrne said in a statement: "All our tests show [e-Borders] works and there are more than 1,000 arrests to prove it. Now we need to go further, with full-scale screening of travellers."
He added that e-Borders creates "a new, offshore line of defence — helping genuine travellers but stopping those who pose a risk before they travel".
Speaking to the House of Commons on 25 July, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said electronic screening of travellers is an essential counter-terrorism measure as the first line of defence against terrorism is overseas, where people begin journeys to the UK.
Brown said there is therefore an urgent need to scrap "old and ineffective" paper-based systems and replace them with electronic systems that allow for "real-time monitoring" and immediate, co-ordinated action.
Brown told parliament: "The way forward is electronic screening of all passengers as they check in and out of our country at ports and airports — so that terrorist suspects can be identified and stopped before they board planes, trains and boats to the United Kingdom."