Earlier this year, security at Manchester Airport had more holes in it than a pound of Swiss cheese, according to an independent inspector for the UK Border Agency (UKBA). The inspector, John Vine, discovered two locations in which new arrivals could “walk out of the airport”, entirely ignoring customs and immigration checkpoints.
The news was a major blow for Manchester Airport, which is widely revered as a champion of novel security techniques, such as the full-body scanner and, more recently, an innovative iris-scanning device. Officials have been left pondering whether or not the security flaws have been exploited in the past, and what heinous villains could be residing illegally in the UK as a consequence of these security slips.
John Vine intimated that the UKBA knew about security problems at Manchester Airport, but had done nothing to remedy the situation. The main issue concerned “a handful” of transfer passengers, who were able to leave the airport without boarding their connecting flight (if they were so inclined). "It was considered serious enough to have been discussed (with the) Home Secretary”, Mr Vine said.
Manchester claims that its border controls were “strengthened immediately” after publication of the report, but the final document reads like a comedy of errors. Facial recognition gates, another of Manchester’s hi-tech toys, broke down five times in just one week, and even trapped a passenger in one particularly humiliating instance.
Inspectors were largely unimpressed with the Ringway hub’s reliance upon new technologies, describing the facial recognition device as unreliable. UKBA representatives in the North of England say that many of John Vine’s observations were valid, and efforts have been made to rectify the issues.
The BBC News website notes that the inspection took place between the 5th and 7th of May 2010, but the results have only just become known.