Multiple biometric checks at Changi Airport Terminal 4

Terminal 4 to be first checkpoint with facial, iris and fingerprint scans; launch date not fixed

Changi Airport Terminal 4 will be Singapore's first checkpoint with multiple biometric capabilities. PHOTO: CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP

Travellers at Changi Airport Terminal 4 will experience a full suite of biometric technology for fingerprint, iris and facial scanning - as part of plans to beef up border security at checkpoints across the island.

T4, which will open towards the end of the year, will be Singapore's first checkpoint with multiple biometric capabilities, though they will not all be immediately activated.

Currently, such checks at immigration counters islandwide are focused on fingerprint verification.

To secure Singapore's borders as threat levels increase with recent terrorist attacks at other airports and cities, multiple biometric screening will be progressively introduced at all checkpoints besides T4, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) Zuraidah Abdullah said.

Currently attached to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) as Domain Commander, Integrated Checkpoints Command (Air), she told The Sunday Times in an exclusive interview: "We have come across a lot of people, myself included, whose thumbprints cannot be read, for whatever reasons. With iris and facial screening, we can do one or all three, depending on the level of risk and threat situation."

Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs, had said in Parliament last November that it would take about two years for all checkpoints to be equipped with the capabilities.

ICA will collect iris images from Singapore citizens and permanent residents progressively when they apply for and collect their identity cards and passports.

For foreign visitors, there are other security initiatives, SAC Zuraidah said. Since last April, for instance, fingerprints have been scanned upon arrival and departure so these can be verified against ICA records.

It also allows those whose fingerprints are scanned when they arrive to use automated immigration lanes when they depart.

Encouraging more to use the automated lanes reduces human errors and allows officers at the manned counters and on the ground to focus on unknown travellers.

These include, for example, first-time visitors who may require closer scrutiny.

For those passing through Changi Airport, ICA is studying the feasibility of verifying their documents against Interpol's list of stolen and lost passports, following a recent trial, SAC Zuraidah said.

All travellers flying to Singapore will also eventually be screened even before they land, she revealed.

To do this, it will be made compulsory for all airlines to provide a full list of names and other personal information of travellers booked on their flights.

"This way, you don't need to stand in front of me before I start looking at you," SAC Zuraidah said.

As passenger and cargo traffic grows at Changi - from 58.7 million passengers last year, Changi Airport is expected to handle an estimated 80 million passengers a year by 2025 - and the airport becomes more popular with locals as a place to shop and eat, a focus on security in both public and restricted areas is critical, SAC Zuraidah said.

"Of course we also recognise that Changi is known for its efficiency, so we work closely with the airport operator, deploying better technology to facilitate faster and, at the same time, more accurate clearance," she added.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline Multiple biometric checks at Changi Airport Terminal 4. Subscribe