• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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EU to start checking fingerprints for British travellers in 2024

Anticipated to prompt considerable delays, the system’s implementation is expected to impact travel times significantly

Freight and passenger traffic makes its way towards the Eurotunnel on December 30, 2021 in Dover, England (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

A new EU digital border system, set to launch next autumn, will require the collection of fingerprints and facial scans from British travellers on first use, reports suggest.

The entry/exit system (EES) is anticipated to commence on October 6, 2024, as indicated by the i and Times newspapers, referencing information from Getlink, the Eurotunnel’s owner.

Eurotunnel, responsible for a car transport service between Folkestone and Calais, is said to be undergoing testing of the technology that involves gathering personal data at borders, to be stored in an EU-wide database, The Guardian reported.

Under the EES, passengers will be required to undergo fingerprinting and facial image capture during their first arrival on the continent.

Subsequent utilisation of this data, which includes records of denied entry, aims to streamline processing for quicker border clearance, according to travel authorities.

The initially planned rollout, originally slated for this year, faced delays due to concerns about potential disruptions during next summer’s Olympics in Paris.

Anticipated to prompt considerable delays, the system’s implementation is expected to impact travel times significantly.

The Port of Dover had previously approximated that the additional requirements could extend the duration for a family of five in a vehicle during their initial trip after the EES introduction, from about 45-90 seconds to up to 10 minutes.

Eurotunnel’s estimations suggest an increase in the average processing time for a car passing through the French frontier, rising from less than 60 seconds to a range of 5-7 minutes.

As outlined by the European Commission, the system’s application will apply when entering into 25 EU countries (all member states excluding Cyprus and Ireland) and four non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein) within the border-free Schengen area, alongside most EU member states.

The checks are set to occur in England under reciprocal agreements between the UK government and France, allowing French authorities to conduct border checks at UK departure points into the EU—specifically, the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel, and Eurostar.

During a House of Lords committee session, representatives from Eurotunnel emphasised that the risk did not lie within terminals but rather during the enrollment process at French booths.

They highlighted that this procedure obstructed the exit check booths for the UK, subsequently impeding check-in processes and resulting in queues that extended onto the motorway, causing congestion for static passenger traffic on the high-speed motorway.

Following the launch of the EES, the EU is slated to introduce the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), which pertains to non-EU citizens from 60 countries enjoying visa-free travel with the bloc.

Modelled after the US Esta scheme, ETIAS will require non-EU travellers to complete a form and pay €7 (£6) before entering Europe’s passport-free zone. The fee, applicable to individuals aged between 18 and 70, grants multiple entries over three years, with approval typically expected within minutes for most cases.

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