So far so good

Around 11:00am yesterday, Sufia Begum, a resident of the capital’s Dhanmondi area, went to Dhaka airport to fly to Bangkok for tourism purposes.

Collecting the boarding pass, she went for immigration around 11:30am to board the plane.

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As an e-passport carrier, the immigration officials asked her to go through the e-gate. She first placed the passport for scanning at the e-gate, which took around four to five seconds.

Then Sufia entered through the gate, and an automated camera scanned her face, which took another 10 to 12 seconds.

Finally, she was asked to go to the immigration officer’s desk, where officials just put a departure seal and check visa and boarding pass.

This process had taken less than a minute.

“I never thought that my immigration process would be done in less than two minutes, that too without standing in any queue. Earlier, we always had to spend at least ten to fifteen minutes for immigration,” Sufia told this newspaper.

During a visit at the departure and arrival desk at HSIA, this correspondent found no queue for e-passport holders.

For comparison, Zubair Ahmed reached HSIA around 11:00am from Paris, and it took him less than a minute to complete the immigration process. His co-passengers who did not have e-passports had to stand in a long queue and spend a long time to complete the same process.

A total of 12 e-gates have been set up at arrival and 12 at departure. Their operation began on June 7. The airport’s database shows that 6,576 passengers departed and 2,108 arrived using e-gates from June 7 to June 23.

Brig Gen Sadat Hossain, project director of e-passport and automated border control management project, said e-gates are capable of verifying passports and their carriers’ authenticity within a short time.

Besides HSIA, six e-gates have been installed at Chattogram airport, and one each at Benapole and Banglabandha airport, said Sadat.

Presently, the e-gates are only being used for scanning passports and their carriers.

But the authority is working to integrate other information, including boarding time, departure details, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training details for expatriates, e-visa details and travel history.

Once these are integrated, more benefits will welcome passengers, said insiders.

Contacted, Group Captain Kamrul Islam, executive director of HSIA, said they are working and are hopeful to complete the integration process within a year.

Shahriar Alam, special superintendent of police’s Special Branch, said full benefits of the gates will come when machine-readable passports are completely phased out.

Asked about misusing the system, Shahriar said traffickers may try to misuse it for trafficking people, especially when it comes to countries that do not require visas. “We remain alert to avert such activities.”

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