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Piarco gets automated passport system

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon does a fingerprint check at one of the new automated border control system kiosks at Piarco International Airport yesterday, as Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan during yesterday’s launch. Photo by:SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Long immigration lines in the arrival lounges at this country’s two major airports could soon be a thing of the past, after the Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Works and Transport and the Airports Authority of T&T yesterday launched a new automated border control system at the Piarco International Airport.

The pilot project, which features 12 kiosks, is set to be tested on selected citizens arriving at the airport over the next two weeks, before being unveiled fully to travellers on July 28.

The system requires users to scan their machine-readable passports, have their fingerprints scanned and their photographs taken. Users who are cleared for entry are then issued with a slip with their photograph which is collected by a designated immigration officer.

Travellers will then be permitted to proceed towards duty-free shopping or directly to the baggage claim area and the Customs and Excise checkpoint. Those who have been flagged for a secondary immigration check will receive a slip with a cross over their photograph and will then be directed to an interview with an immigration officer. The entire process is expected to take a little over a minute from start to finish.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the system was implemented to reduce inefficiency and to bring T&T in line with major international countries who have been using similar systems for quite some time.

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon meanwhile explained that the system uses state-of-the-art facial recognition software and collects users’ fingerprints. It also verifies the validity of a travel document by checking it against an international database of photos, passports and ID cards.

“When we hear these kinds of features, understand what this can do for us not only in the area of immigration but in the areas of crime and security,” Dillon said.

He explained that members of the protective services will also be able to access the data gathered by the system. He said the system will be first introduced at that airport before being implemented at the ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago and other ports of entry. A similar system is also to be introduced for departures.

Asked about the cost of implementing the system, Dillion referred the question to the authority’s general manager Hayden Newton.

Newton did not give a figure, but said: “What I can tell you is that the benefits far outweigh the costs.”


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