Morocco’s biometric border management system

Morocco’s biometric border management system

Boosting trade and tourism by bolstering security

Separated from Europe by only 14km at the Strait of Gibraltar’s narrowest point, Morocco is a natural gateway for migratory flows from Africa as well as an attractive destination for many immigrants and refugees. Given the deep economic rift between the two continents, immigration and border control​ have become topics of concern for both Morocco and its neighbors, especially Spain and the European Union as a whole.

With economic growth of over 4.4% in 2013 and 8.6 million tourists welcomed annually, the country must meet the triple challenge of securing borders, facilitating trade and simplifying travel formalities.

Moroccan authorities’ political will to achieve this three-pronged goal has led to a major program of border control infrastructure modernization, with significant investments in specialized expertise and state-of-the-art technology.

A sweeping overhaul of existing infrastructure

Early in 2009, Morocco turned its attention to the critical infrastructure underpinning its border control security. The Ministry of the Interior sought to replace the entire system with an all-new architecture. Although migration to biometric passports was already underway, the country’s existing mainframe system had neither the document readers nor the biometrics and security feature verification capabilities to support ePassports​.

Following a public tender, the contract was awarded to the Marubeni-Gemadec consortium, under which Gemalto—through secure border management systems specialist Avalon Biometrics—acted as a subcontractor. The initial phase spanned development ​of the end-to-end solution and deployment at the central data processing and mirror sites, as well as at the country’s busiest and most critical border control points. Phase I also included implementation of automated border control gates at Rabat and Casablanca airports, 90 primary inspection terminals, 10 secondary inspection terminals, 10 back-office stations and 14 mobile units to inspect ships.

The new system will ultimately make Morocco’s 47 border control points interconnected nationwide.The first biometric ePassport to be issued in Africa​.