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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Passports face hi-tech scans

Passport scanners which could instantly identify passengers who pose a security risk are being introduced on some UK-bound flights.

The hi-tech devices can "read" passports and other documents and check details against information held on international law enforcement databases.

The scanners will be used in a three-month trial on some UK-bound flights from Miami and Madrid.

They will be used to identify anyone who is a known immigration or security risk, as well as detecting forged or stolen documents.

A spokesman for the Home Office told BBC News Online the technology would enhance the ability of immigration officials to identify risks.

The pre-entry screening trial scheme is being operated in partnership with Virgin Atlantic between Miami and Heathrow, and easyJet between Madrid and Stansted.

Beverley Hughes: "Measures will protect UK security"

Announcing the scheme, Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "This trial is the first step in a long-term programme to harness the latest technology to modernise and strengthen our border controls, creating a border security system fit for the 21st century.

"As many as 90 million people passed through the UK last year - reflecting the UK's leading place in the global economy.

"Against this background, it is neither possible, nor desirable to set up a fortress Britain.

"But we do need to ensure that we have in place measures to protect the security of our citizens and strengthen our borders to prevent people travelling to the UK illegally and to tackle terrorism and organised crime."

Instant checks

At present, immigration officials work with law enforcement agencies to identify potential security risks, but there is no way of instantly checking information on their files against passenger documents.

A Home Office spokesman said the scanners would allow these checks to be made "in real time".

The scheme is part of the government's commitment to using new technology to tighten up border control.

This will include the increased use of so-called biometric technology, which identifies people by the shape of the face, pattern of the iris or fingerprints.

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23 Jan 03  |  Technology
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21 Feb 02  |  Science/Nature

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