Friday 24, March 2023

E-gates at HSIA yet not operational

Seven months after the inauguration, the authorities could still not make the e-gates operational for e-passport holders at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, frustrating inbound and outbound passengers.

The Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP), which installed six e-gates, is blaming the Special Branch (SB) of police for the delay in operations.

The SB, on the other hand, alleged it did not get the required server link from the DIP to make the e-gates operational.

In the meantime, e-passport holders are not getting any benefit from the new technology. Their immigration is now being carried out manually.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal inaugurated the first-ever electronic gates at the Dhaka airport in June last year, marking the country's step into the digital era of travel. Bangladesh is the first country in South Asia to launch an e-gate for e-passports.

The SB, in charge of immigration through land ports and airports, said they are carrying out immigration formalities manually at the moment as a link between the e-passport server and the e-gates is yet to be established.

Once the e-gates are in operation, the camera attached to the gate will identify the passenger automatically after analysing information from the e-passport chips. This means, passengers will no longer be required to stand in queues for long, as the e-gates will open automatically for e-passport holders.

The government had launched the e-passport programme in January 2020 to make the immigration process easier and enhance the international ratings of Bangladeshi passports.

The e-passports add a layer of security to traditional non-electronic passports by embedding an electronic chip in the passport booklet that stores the biographical information visible on page 2 of the passport, as well as a digital security feature.

There is an embedded microprocessor chip that contains all information along with the photo, and data regarding fingerprint and iris of the eye of the passport holder, according to DIP.

In June 2019, e-gates were installed at the Dhaka airport as part of the government's move to launch e-passports. The immigration officials were given training on operating the gates.

Col Md Khalid Saifullah, additional project director of the e-passport project, told The Daily Star on February 2 that the immigration wing of the SB is supposed to operate the e-gate. But they are asking for a separate server link with all the information of e-passport details.

However, it does not mean that the link is necessary for e-gate operation, he added.

"Still, we already installed a separate server containing all necessary information about e-passports. It is now totally up to the Special Branch of police to make the e-gate functional."

Asked, Md Monirul Islam, deputy inspector general (Immigration) of SB, told The Daily Star that they need the sever link with e-passports to make the e-gate functional.

"We did not get any link from the Department of Immigration and Passports yet.

"Once the technical issues are solved and we get the link, the e-gates will be functional," he said.

Presently, the SB has a link with the Machine-Readable Passport (MRP) server, according to sources.

This server link is necessary to block or open any passport user's movement. In the absence of access or link with the server, there are possibilities that a person who has no authorisation to leave the country may pass through immigration.

For this reason, a link with the e-passport server is necessary for the e-gate, they added.

The government has planned to set up 50 e-gates gradually at all the airports and land ports across the country under the "E-Passport and Automated Border Control Management Project".