E-borders to cost £1.2 billion

The electronic borders programme is set to cost an estimated 1.2 billion, the Home Office has said, as it published details of the pilot.

Called Project Semaphore, the trial of the massive system - which uses technology and databases to screen people before they travel to the UK - has already looked at 29 million passengers and assisted in over 1,000 arrests from 13,000 border alerts, the Home Office added. The arrests included those charged with murder, rape and assault, the Home Office said.

"We're creating an overseas border control with tougher checks before travellers board a train, plane or boat for Britain. All our tests show it works and there's over 1000 arrests to prove it," said immigration minister Liam Byrne, in a statement. "Now we need to go further with full scale screening of travellers."

The government plans to use the e-borders technology to check up on the majority of UK visitors before they arrive against alert lists from immigration, customs and police databases in real time by 2009.