Even after eight months of inauguration, activities of e-gate at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport are yet to begin. As a result, e-passport holders have been suffering due to lack of modern facilities at the airport. More time is required to complete the formalities both for the inbound and the outgoing passengers.

Concerned people said the work is halted due to lack of coordination of two government offices -- the Department of Immigration and the Passport and Special Branch (SB) of police. They further said activities to set up e-gates at other air and land ports in the country are also facing hiccups.

Six e-gates were inaugurated at the Dhaka airport on 30 June last year. Despite the modern facilities, the immigration police have been checking passports at all the air and land ports manually. It takes almost 2-3 hours for completing all the proceedings, including boarding, check in, and immigration, for a passenger at the airport. This puts pressure on the immigration activities if there is a schedule for several international flights in a short span of time. The initiative to set up e-gate was taken to get rid of those problems. Currently, around 20,000-21,000 passengers use Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport every day.

SB is asking for some classified and extremely sensitive information of the citizens like iris, fingerprint, signature and some other information. The government has not told us to give this to others
Brigadier General Mohammad Sadat Hossain, Project director of the e-gate set up project

The Department of Immigration and Passport, however, said 38 people have been trained to run the e-gate. Another four people will be sent to Germany for training in this regard. For this, a letter has been sent to the home ministry.

The department officials claim police’s SB department is responsible to keep the e-gates running. They have been delaying. Countering the immigration and passport department’s claim, SB officials said a server is required run the e-gate. But they could not get the link required to enter server.

E-gate is being set up at all the air and land ports in the country under the project ‘E-passport and Automated Border Control Management’. Wishing not to be named, an immigration and passport department official involved with the project, told Prothom Alo, “Internationally, immigration police and passport authorities are same. But in Bangladesh, the two departments are being run by two separate authorities. That’s why there are more complexities.”

E-passport and automated control system was inaugurated on 22 January 2020. The immigration and passport department said around 3.3 million (33 lakh) people have applied for e-passports. Among them, e-passports were given to 26,22,300.

The way e-gate functions

E-gate can identify the e-passport holders immediately at land and airports. Required information, including photograph and fingerprint, of a passenger is kept in the e-passport. After scanning the e-passport the e-gate will open automatically. Then the camera will identify the passenger. Among other services of the e-gate, there is e-visa identification system. That’s why connectivity is required with the network of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The process is underway. Concerned people say this will be done by March.

Lack of coordination between the two authorities

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Monirul Islam said, “The passport department is not providing the link of the server. We can begin working from afternoon, if the link is given in the morning.

Mentioning that they have informed the matter to the passport department formally, he claimed there is no lack of coordination.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, passport department officials said they have been trying to build a coordination between the passport department’s server and the immigration police’s system. They have been waiting for the ministry’s approval.

Project director of the e-gate set up project, Brigadier General Mohammad Sadat Hossain said, “SB is asking for some classified and extremely sensitive information of the citizens like iris, fingerprint, signature and some other information. The government has not told us to give this to others.”

He further said beginning of e-gate functions from an intermediary server might take at best six months. But there is not much relation between keep operating the e-gate and its link. He does not know why the SB was not operating the e-gate, he added.