Calls to delay new 2024 European Union fingerprint and biometric entry system amid chaos fears

Anyone from Britain entering the EU will have to give fingerprints and facial biometric data supervised by an official from later this year leading to massive delay fears
Anyone from Britain entering the EU will have to give fingerprints and facial biometric data supervised by an official from later this year - leading to massive delay fears -Credit:Getty

A call has been made for a new entry system to the European Union requiring prints from the four fingers on their right hand as well as a facial biometric to be delayed amid fears of meltdown later this year. The Justice and Home Affairs Committee from the House of Lords has conducted an inquiry into the planned electronic border management system and said it was ‘alarmed’ at the potential impact.

The Entry/Exit System (EES) for the EU is due to be introduced in October or November 2024. Every time a British person tries to enter the EU and wider Schengen Area they must give their fingerprint and facial biometric - and the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) process has to be supervised by a European frontier official.

The committee said that it is likely to cause severe delays at ports, rail terminals and airports and said it needs to be delayed until the technology is improved, for example by using a smartphone app which would allow some of the information to be loaded on in advance.

The committee's concerns included:

  • Lack of public awareness that such a big change is happening: “We are alarmed by the lack of awareness of these changes on the part of UK Citizens who will be impacted by EES and ETIAS, and by the Government’s current inadequate approach to communicating details of the UK’s ETA internationally.”

  • The timetable for the implementation of changes at the border is extremely ambitious. There is a lack of coordination with the EU on the launch of its schemes, with challenges and delays likely to arise if the rollout of the ETA for EU citizens clashes with the launch of the EES.

  • It asked if it will do much to improve border security and said the ETA should be expanded at the application stage to get more information about each traveller

  • The committee was concerned how it will operate between northern and southern Ireland. The committee urges the Government to work on a solution to clarify the position of short-stay visitors coming from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.

The committee chair, Lord Foster of Bath, has written to Tom Pursglove, minister for Legal Migration and the Border, asking him to “encourage the EU to delay the introduction of the EES until a smartphone application for pre-registration is ready”.

Lord Foster of Bath said: “We are concerned about the pace of change given the current inadequacies in the information being made, the potential disruption if the ETA for EU citizens and the EU’s own EES are introduced at the same time, and the lack of time to make changes in the light of experience from early stages of the rollout process.”

“We are not convinced that transit passengers should require an ETA, not least because of the significant economic impact it will have on Heathrow. The pace of change could undermine public confidence in border management.

“The Government, Border Force and the public need to be ready and these changes need to be communicated as a priority. We have seen major disruption at Dover and Kent when there are delays at the border, and long queues at airports when systems are down. Planning for a gradual and well co-ordinated implementation of the new schemes is vital to ensure similar chaos at our borders is avoided.”

A government spokesperson said: “We will continue to work closely with the EU and member states, as well as wider stakeholders including global carriers and ports, to minimise any impact of the upcoming changes.”