Fit for the border control of the future

Fit for the border control of the future

Levels of international travel are constantly on the rise; at the same time, terrorism and organised crime result in increased expectations from the public and politicians regarding the quality of the checks at Schengen external border areas. Despite the extensive regulatory provisions, IT systems can help to keep waiting times at border checkpoints within manageable limits.

The complexity of the IT systems must remain straightforward for officials, however, to allow the systems to provide beneficial support. Integrated border control application (IGA) 2.0 represents an important step forward in this respect, and is already in use at over 2,000 German border control counters. It joins together IT systems that were previously separate, delivering a genuine efficiency gain.

For members of the Schengen area crossing the EU’s external borders at busy German airports handling large numbers of passengers has been quicker and easier since 2014, as the EasyPASS border control system has automated the process of matching the person to the electronic identity document, physical passport or ID card. Passengers complete the border control process by passing through an automated border control system – the secunet easygate – virtually autonomously. This results in a much faster border check and shorter waiting times.

Greater efficiency needed

Manual border control at stationary border control counters was still a laborious process, however – and therefore time-consuming for both officials and passengers: when checking people, the officials had to manually call up several central registers and search databases that were not connected to each other. Names, dates of birth and document numbers were called up individually in each system – from the visa database, VIS, through to the INPOL search database. Having this range of applications is not only inconvenient; it also entails potential sources of errors in principle.

On top of all the existing complexity, further demands of stationary border control are already on the horizon: following the resolution by the EU Parliament, the EU’s collaborative biometric Entry/Exit System (EES) is due to be implemented by 2024. This will eliminate the previous stamping procedure for passengers from third countries and replace it with electronic register entry. In addition, passengers will be digitally recorded with four fingerprints and a facial image photo directly at the Schengen external border. Automatic checks can therefore be carried out at a later date to determine, for instance, whether a traveller has exceeded the maximum duration of a short stay (90 days within 180 days).

Compulsory biometrics from 2024
With the introduction of the Entry/Exit System, in future border control officials will need to add biometric data collection and maintenance in accordance with EES provisions to their existing original border control responsibilities such as checking documents and questioning and checking people. Without supporting technology and a re-optimised processes it will not be possible for them to take on these additional tasks – at least not without the existing checking process taking longer.

The Federal Police Force had already started the ball rolling for a supporting system with the self-developed integrated border control application (IGA) 1.0: this application brought together all registers and databases relevant at that point in time. However, the solution could not, or could only with difficulty be extended to include further border control procedures and registers, such as the Entry/Exit System, databases for airline passenger records (Passenger Name Records, PNR), or other police workflow systems such as mission control centre systems, process management systems, border control records, EasyPASS or kiosk systems.

IGA 2.0: link between different IT systems

This was the starting signal for IGA 2.0. The new application did not have to be redeveloped from scratch by any means. Rather, secunet bocoa was already available as a building block when constructing a solution, and the Federal Police Force already had experience using it, e.g. for mobile searching and in EES pilot projects.

IGA 2.0 conveniently brings together the results of visual and electronic document checks, the results from the background systems and analysis of biometric data, and displays them in a manageable way for the border control officials. By means of appropriate filtering and visualisation of relevant discrepancies or inconsistencies the officials can log and evaluate the checking procedure at a glance. If required, they can analyse the relevant details in greater depth. Furthermore, they do not have to enter the data manually several times over, and ideally won't have to enter it manually at all. The checking procedure will be more efficient, since officials will be able to concentrate on the more relevant exceptions.

Alongside those currently in existence, new, additional systems can be linked in future: such as the planned EES and – currently – the PNR passenger data system.

Overall, IGA 2.0 acts as a central link between existing IT systems and border officials. Furthermore, it ensures seamless information flow between the federal authorities involved – i.e. the Federal Police Force, the Federal Office of Administration and the Federal Office for Information Security. The solution currently handles up to 185,000 manual border controls at German airports – per day.

Thanks to IGA border control officials are freed up from time-consuming routine tasks such as operating a variety of dedicated technical systems and manually evaluating data. The time gained with the collection of data can be used for plausibility and document checks, further raising the security standard.

Staff can concentrate on core policing duties

The human factor plays an important part in the introduction and roll-out: the Federal Police Force evaluated the acceptance of the system through internal surveys and pilot phases. The results of these influenced the subsequent planning and development work. The design of a graphic user interface that provides optimal support to the border control officials in their work also played a key role. Here, too, users’ demands and wishes were taken into consideration. The roll-out across Germany was completed at the end of October 2019; since then, IGA 2.0 has contributed to making controls at the EU’s external borders future-proof and efficient.

secunet border gears
For the highest level of security. For convenient, intuitive passenger processes. For the implementation of sustainable, EES-compliant border control strategies.
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