Passengers flying into the UK are facing long delays at passport controls as e-gates across the country have gone down.
The issue is affecting people arriving at UK airports – including Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick – after the system went down on Friday night.
The Home Office said it is working with airlines and port operators to “minimise disruption for travellers”.
Unions have warned that queues would build “very, very quickly”.
All airports across the country that use the gates are affected, meaning people flying in are having to queue to get their passports checked manually.
This weekend was already expected to be busy for travellers, with the Bank holiday coinciding with the half-term break.
Travellers leaving the UK via the Port of Dover have also faced issues after the French passport system failed earlier this morning.
The IT issue has been fixed, but cars and coaches are currently waiting for about an hour, and there are more than 400 lorries queuing to make the crossing.
Meanwhile, airports around the UK issued statements warning passengers of delays but saying they were working with the UK Border Force to minimise disruption, and a Gatwick Airport spokesperson said queues were “manageable” so far – although they were expecting 800 incoming flights during the day. It said the issue there first started between 19:00 and 20:00 BST on Friday.
The e-gate system speeds up passport control by allowing some passengers to scan their own passports. The system uses facial recognition to verify a traveller’s identity and captures an image of the traveller as they pass through the gate.
One passenger arriving at Gatwick said the situation was an “utter joke”.
“You end up putting all the passengers through physically-manned officer desks,” Lucy Morton, from the Immigration Services Union, told the BBC’s Radio 4.
She said between 60-80% of travelling passengers will go through e-gates, depending on the airport.
“There’s no impact on national security,” she said, explaining that all arrivals will still be fully checked.
E-gates can be used by British citizens aged over 12 and those from the EU, as well as people from several other countries including Australia, Canada, the US, Japan and New Zealand.
But all entry points retain manned security desks for other passengers and those who are unable to use the e-gates.
A Home Office spokesperson said they were aware of a “nationwide border system issue affecting arrivals into the UK”.
“We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and are liaising with port operators and airlines to minimise disruption for travellers,” they said.
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