Government launches new immigration screening system

The Home Secretary has announced plans to electronically track and screen all those people entering or leaving Great Britain
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

A Government project to use passenger and intelligence databases to track and screen travellers entering and leaving the UK is set to begin trials by the end of the year.

The £15m 'Project Semaphore' trial is the first part of the government's 'e-borders' project to use the internet in conjunction with travel operator and airline databases to tighten the UK's border controls.

Project Semaphore will initially involve six million passengers a year travelling on selected international air routes to and from the UK.

The full e-Borders project is set to begin full implementation from 2008 and the government claims it will help combat terrorism and illegal immigration by enabling tighter controls of those who may pose a security risk as well as providing more accurate records of everyone entering and leaving the UK.

The system will link all the UK's international arrival and departure points as well as overseas travel operators and airlines, allowing the government to screen passengers for entry to the UK before they even board a plane, boat or train.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the e-borders programme will work alongside biometric ID cards to safeguard the UK.

"This will further secure the UK's borders by efficiently recording people travelling into and out of the UK, using airline reservation information and capturing passengers' biometric data. This will be a modern, high-tech replacement for the outdated paper embarkation controls which were removed in 1994 and 1998," he said in a statement.

The e-borders programme is being co-ordinated by the Home Office in partnership with key border control, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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