IT glitch causes delays at UK Border Force

Passengers at several UK airports and ferry ports have been facing long delays at passport control due to an IT problem

Passengers at several UK airports and ferry ports have been facing long delays at passport control due to an IT glitch.

The problem with UK Border Force computers occurred on Wednesday 30 April, when an IT problem caused long queues at a number of border control agencies across the UK.

Airports including Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Birmingham were affected, as well as the sea ports Dover and Southampton.

Stansted Airport told Computer Weekly that it was affected yesterday afternoon and early evening, but the problem was rectified at around 4.30 this morning.

But Manchester airport stated it had “not particularly” been affected by the problem.

Immigration and security minister James Brokenshire said engineers had been working through the night to fix the “temporary IT problem”.

"The current situation is much improved and we are doing our best to keep waiting times to a minimum during this morning's busy period,” he said. “We apologise for any delays, but security must remain our priority at all times."

The Home Office has been criticized in the past for continuing to use an e-Borders pilot system three years after the department cancelled the contract at a cost of £750m. The programme was formally put to an end as of March this year.

The e-Borders programme was first commissioned in 2003 to improve the use of information to track people moving in and out of the UK’s borders. The aim was to conduct checks on travellers at the point of embarkation to the UK rather than on arrival in the country.

A report into e-Borders by John Vine last year pointed out that the programme was using two systems – Semaphore and Warnings Index – known to contain “critical system vulnerabilities”. The Warnings Index database itself is understood to be about 15 years’ old, and its supplier, Fujitsu, has been in discussions with the government over its future.

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