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Biometrics system failure in Malaysia causes chaos

09 June 2011

The high profile failure of a state-of-the-art biometrics system at a major international travel hub in Malaysia last weekend has sent shockwaves throughout the global biometrics industry.

According to newswire reports, the Southern Integrated Gateway complex in Johor Bahru, Malaysia - which incorporates a major international railway station and immigration plus customs facilities for the Malay peninsula - experienced a massive fingerprint biometric systems failure last Saturday.

The New Straits Times reports that queues of more than two hours for tourists arriving in Malaysia, with numbers already swollen by school holidays.

The problems were caused by a new fingerprint biometrics system that was switched on just four days before the breakdown.

The delays reportedly forced many tourists to either change or scrap their holiday travel plans.

"There was a sea of people at the SIB's arrival hall and immigration clearance was reported to take as long as five minutes for each tourist", says the newspaper, noting that this is five times longer that the Malaysian immigration department's target of 60 seconds maximum per person.

"A similar situation also occurred at the CIQ checkpoint in the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (SABC) at the Second Link, with most cars and buses taking about 150 minutes just to reach the complex", adds the paper.

According to the New Straits Times, the fingerprint biometrics system - which started on June 1 - "requires foreigners entering and leaving Malaysia to have their left and right index fingers scanned at entry and exit points."

This replaces the system where travellers only needed to have their passports stamped by officials.

The paper quotes Malaysia Tour Guides Council president Jimmy Leong as saying that the tourism industry suffered a severe blow as a result of the hiccup, adding that this had left a bad impression on tourists.

He said it was disappointing that the problem occurred during the school holidays, which was the peak season for the tourism industry.

"I will be writing to the Prime Minister's Department and Tourism Ministry to highlight the matter", he told the paper.

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