System suspended until space is made available
Immigration: The biometric registration system set up at the Paro international airport for foreigners was suspended four days after it was introduced.
The system, introduced on March 12, led to immigration formalities taking longer with some passengers having to wait in the queue for more than an hour, said an airport officials. Biometric registration system registers fingerprints and takes photos when processing immigration formalities.
The long waits led to some passengers remarking that it is faster to fly to Bhutan than complete immigration formalities, said an airport officials. Some passengers even verbally assaulted immigration officials.
The immigration department’s director general, Thinley Wangchuk, said that the trial run of the biometric system at the airport has been postponed given the delays it was causing.
He said that the system will be reintroduced once space for more immigration counters is available. But with no space available in the terminal, the system will most likely be reintroduced only when a second terminal is completed in two years.
Besides this, “fine-tuning” and “getting used to the system” will also be required before the reintroduction, he pointed out.
The director also said that once a person is registered into the biometric system, the process to pass through the system the next time is faster.
The biometric system was introduced to strengthen the immigration department’s identification capability. For instance, the system will be able to identify individuals who may be wanted in Bhutan but exited the country, and then attempting to reenter using false papers.
The biometric system is used over the Internet given financial constraints. Thinley Wangchuk said that eventually the system will move onto the country’s fibre optic network.
The system is not connected to any international criminal database currently.
The immigration department will also gradually introduce the biometric system at road checkpoints. Thinley Wangchuk said that he does not expect similar delays as people do not arrive at the road checkpoints all at once like at the airport.
By Gyalsten K Dorji