Eye-scanning technology extended at Heathrow

The use of eye-scanning technology is being extended at Heathrow Airport in order to speed up immigration checks.

UK citizens and some foreign travellers who have leave to remain in Britain will be able to use the Iris Recognition Immigration System (IRIS) at Terminal I from today, enabling them to enter the UK without queuing to see an immigration officer at passport control.

Instead, passengers who are signed up to the scheme will be able to walk up to an automated barrier, look into a camera and enter the UK if the system recognises them.

The biometric technology, which was introduced at Terminal 2 and 4 at Heathrow in June 2005, works by photographing a passenger's iris patterns and storing the data in a database, together with their passport details. Only those individuals who have had their details authenticated by an immigration officer are able to use the technology. As no two iris patterns are alike, the system will quickly and securely recognise each registered individual when they look into the camera.

A one-off enrolment for IRIS takes around 5 minutes and is free. Registration is conducted by immigration staff in the departures area of the airport.

Speaking at the launch, Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said: "With over 97 million people entering the UK in 2005, it is important that the UK remains at the forefront of the latest technology in immigration controls and the government's commitment to the project.

"Secure and effective border controls are vital to safeguard our citizens against terrorism, serious and organised crime and illegal immigration, while at the same time facilitating entry for legitimate travellers."

IRIS will be installed at Gatwick North and South, Heathrow Terminal 3, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester Terminals 1 and 2 during 2006.

The project was temporarily shut down following the London bomb attacks last July, but re-opened on January 3.


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