Illegal migrants will no longer be able to cross into South Africa after the country introduced a sophisticated fingerprint and facial recognition system at Beitbridge.
South Africa has introduced a biometric capturing system for travellers visiting or leaving that country via Beitbridge Border Post. Pretoria adopted the new programme in July 2014, but its implementation has been delaying due to a number of technical glitches.
The enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) biometric pilot programme was introduced at Lanseria International Airport in November 2015, before it was rolled out to other ports.
Plans to roll-out the eMCS, which captures a travellers’ fingerprints and facial recognition was initially set for December last year, but was shelved after it turned out the department was ill-prepared.
The new order started running at the Beitbridge port of entry on March 10. It is believed that the biometric system will help reduce cases of travellers using fake or stolen identification documents that have become a headache for most countries in the region.
When The Herald visited the South African border last Wednesday, many travellers and immigration officers were seen struggling to get accustomed to the new order.
Further, four immigration officers had been tasked to solely handle biometric data capturing, while the rest used the old eMCS to avoid clogging the border with human and vehicular traffic.
Only South African passport holders where exempted from undergoing the screening.
An immigration officer who preferred anonymity said: “The system is supposed to capture all the data in less than two minutes, but our challenge is that some travellers are still to get used to the new set-up.
“Furthermore, the connectivity of the system has a few technical glitches and this results in us taking longer than necessary to clear travellers. To ensure a speedy flow of traffic, we pick travellers at random for biometric data capturing”.
The official said that was one of the key priority areas in the home affairs’ modernisation programme.
Home Affairs spokesperson Mr Thabo Mokgola said he was yet to get an update on the situation at Beitbridge.
The department said in a recent statement that the capturing of travellers’ biometric on arrival at ports of entries will alleviate the pressure to apply in person, in visa required countries or in situations where there is no representation.
In separate interviews travellers decried the fact that there was no prior notification from the home affairs department about the new system.