Customs confirms changes after eGate system review

  • Hon Kris Faafoi

Customs officers will now always conduct face-to-face checks when eGates reject a passenger, Minister of Customs Hon Kris Faafoi announced today.

The Minister released two reports on the eGate system, work commissioned after James Nolan left New Zealand in January 2019. Mr Nolan was a person of interest who should have been stopped at the airport, but who deliberately evaded authorities by using an eGate and a passport that belonged to someone else.

“This should not have happened and I wanted to understand how it had. I also wanted to ensure no one else could depart or arrive through an eGate by using another person’s passport. Customs had already temporarily suspended the mechanism whereby Mr Nolan was able to pass successfully through the eGate, a computerised Decision Review Tool used by Customs officers remotely.

“As a result of these reports, Customs officers will now always conduct a face to passport check in person when there is inconsistency between the eGate image of the passenger and biometric data information in the passport. The Decision Review Tool used by an operator at a remote office, will no longer be used.”

eGates undertake a number of border processing activities, including comparing the image of a passenger using the eGate with biometric information contained in the passport being used.

The reports also identified learning and development training; and resourcing without the Decision Review Tool as areas for improvement. Customs is already implementing several of the improvement actions, with the longer-term actions due for completion in the coming months. The reports also identified two issues that required further clarification: the level of false accepts and override errors; and the circumstances around a similar incident in 2016 when a person of interest departed New Zealand by deliberately using a genuine passport of another person.

“Customs has provided additional information in relation to both these issues and assured me that its systems continue to provide a secure border while providing a positive experience for 14 million arriving and departing passengers each year.

“No passenger processing system, be it electronic or manual, is entirely immune if a person seeks to deliberately break the law and deceive the processing system.

“We do need to be sure however that Customs’ eGates provide the most accurate processing system, with best practice biometric settings available. I have been assured this is the case and that all necessary actions are underway or about to be.”

The reports are available online here.