Fears of child trafficking are surfacing after the approval of a Home Office pilot scheme to allow children as young as 12 to enter British airports via eGates. According to reports, once the scheme is implemented, children aged 12 to 17 will be able to bypass border guards by automatically scanning through their passports.
Leaked documents have revealed that the pilot scheme will first be tested at London Stansted and Glasgow airports "before national roll out is considered".
"Home Office ministers have given Border Force approval to run a trial allowing GBR [Great Britain] passport holders aged 12-17 years of age use of gates," the leaked document says.
According to the document – which will form part of an operation manual for border guards – a "pop-up message" notification will appear on an officer's screen when a child attempts to enter the immigration through an e-Gate. The border guard officer will next be prompted to press a yes or no button to decide whether or not to allow the child to pass through the e-Gate.
"[If they] have concerns regarding a child using the gates they should press the 'no' button on the age warning pop up button," the document says. It remains unclear how officers will determine whether or not the child is travelling alone or is accompanied by a legal guardian without having an actual conversation with the children.
If approved, there are fears that the new scheme will make it easier for child traffickers to bypass security checks. In 2015, it was revealed that nearly 3,000 children were enslaved in Britain after being trafficked from Vietnam.