New ID checking system ‘a drag’

The Department of Home Affairs has defended the introduction of a biometric data-capture system that has led to waiting periods of three to four hours at under-manned checkpoints at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete conceded that there was a long waiting period but said the department was trying to make the system more efficient.

“[Biometric data-capture] is a trend everywhere in the world. The department is doing what it can to find ways to make it more efficient.”

“The tourism sector told the department to collect biometric data at our airports rather than at the countries of origin,” Tshwete said yesterday.

“Now, when some of these knock-on effects of biometrics happen, we are again put under the spotlight and we are expected to somehow create a magic wand that will make submitting biometrics faster.”

The biometric system, which captures travellers’ fingerprints at ports of entry, was introduced by the department in April last year, but rolled out in earnest in June at 65% of Home Affairs’ counters at arrivals and departures terminals.

Under the system a traveller’s photo and fingerprints are captured, and his passport is scanned and the image recorded.

The first time a traveller’sdata are captured by the system it records the prints of all 10 fingers. Subsequently only one finger will be scanned.

Tshwete said the department was “chronically underfunded”, which resulted in a shortage of employees at airports.

“We are working tirelessly, despite the limitations.”