Border Force IT glitch causes airport chaos for thousands

Filmmaker Louis Theroux among travellers stuck as ‘human logjam’ hits Heathrow and other airports

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 24 September 2021 18:15 BST
The Home Office said the problem had been caused by a technical issue
The Home Office said the problem had been caused by a technical issue (Reuters)

A Border Force IT failure has caused electronic passport gates to fail at airports across the UK.

Travellers including journalist Louis Theroux reported huge queues at Heathrow, Stansted, Edinburgh and Manchester airports, as well as at other locations.

A spokesperson for Heathrow airport, which is the busiest in the UK, said: “We’re aware of a systems failure impacting the e-gates, which are staffed and operated by Border Force.

“This issue is impacting a number of ports of entry and is not an isolated issue at Heathrow. Our teams are working with Border Force to find a solution as quickly as possible.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh airport said there was a “nationwide” Border Force IT issue, and that officials were working to resolve it.

E-gates allow travellers with biometric passports to pass through border control without a manual inspection.

Mr Theroux shared a photo of himself on Twitter, in what he called a “human logjam” at Heathrow. Other passengers reported that their planes were being held on the tarmac because of the “nightmare queues” inside the terminal.

Some reported waits of at least two hours for passport control, and expressed concerns about overcrowding and a lack of measures to prevent the transmission of Covid.

The Independent understands that there were no initial indications that the issue was caused by a cyber attack. The Home Office said that an unspecified “technical issue” had caused the failure, and that security at the border had not been affected.

A spokesperson added: “This afternoon a technical issue affected e-gates at a number of ports. The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved.

“We have been working hard to minimise disruption, and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

The Home Office has not responded to The Independent’s request for further detail on the technical issue or whether other services were affected.

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