Border security to be tightened further by March, says Dr Chang
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Security Minister Dr Horace Chang is confident that the establishment of eGates and immigration kiosks at Sangster International Airport have not only reduced congestion but increased Jamaica’s border security. And Chang is expecting the nation’s border security to be further tightened by March with the introduction of the Passenger Name Recognition (PNR) system.
According to Chang, PNR is a bit more intrusive so the legislation will have to be made even more protective.
“This [eGates system — automated passport control systems that use biometric technology to authenticate the identity of passengers] is currently basic information which will analyse and look at the threat risk, but we will in fact be moving beyond that now to a higher level of information-sharing internationally when we go to the Passenger Name Recognition system,” Chang told the Jamaica Observer.
“Currently this is digitised travel information run by the international body — and it is connected globally — so once their passports are electronically readable, they go to the kiosk and they come through [the eGates],” added Chang.
The eGates, which are featured at many airports worldwide, scan the passport and take a photo of the passenger’s face, which is then compared to the digital image stored in the passport’s microchip.
They serve as an alternative to using desks staffed by immigration officers, allowing passengers to avoid queues and thereby move through passport control much faster.
Chang, who visited the Montego Bay-based international airport during peak hours on Saturday, again expressed satisfaction with the pace at which passengers were processed using the immigration kiosks and six eGates at the facility.
He argued that this augurs well for immigration officers who can now concentrate more on detecting passengers who may pose risks from sneaking into the country.
“The principal measure of this is not just to make [it an] easy walk-through; it also gives the immigration officers adequate time to analyse passenger lists and look at data coming in, so if there is anybody come in who should not be there, they can pick them out without problem[s].
“Under the old manual system it was a hit and miss case. [With] this situation we are much better off now and it is a much more efficient system. The immigration officers can resolve to do their jobs,” Chang stated.
Like many passengers who arrived at the airport on Saturday afternoon, Chang was impressed with, aided by the digitised system, the ease with which they were processed by Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency.
“We had 64 flights/planes coming in today and they are moving at a pace of about 15 minutes through immigration — not an hour, not half-hour as some reported. Anybody [who] experience[d] long delays is for specific reasons. I came in at peak time — I think in the last hour they had 14 flights — and the hallways is practically empty,” Chang said.
After coming through one of the gates, one elderly passenger was overheard saying, “It cannot get any easier than this.”
United Kingdom residents Sonia and Pixley Davis, who arrived from Birmingham, England, were very impressed with the new system.
“I came in October and that wasn’t there; I went through the normal channel [at that time]. But this is good, excellent, fantastic,” Sonia told the Observer.
“It is absolutely fantastic, and we are getting there as Jamaicans,” her husband, Pixley, said.