Friday 22 September 2023

Lack of space on Racsa’s hard drive paralyzed immigration consultation at the airport this Monday

Immigration Director described the failure that affected almost 900 passengers on seven flights as atypical

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22 September 2023 - At The Banks - Source: BCCR

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RICO’s DIGEST – We’ve all had this happen, your computer’s hard drive is full and your computer crashes. But we are not the Radiográfica Costarricense (Racsa), the State entity that promotes itself as “your trusted ally” that integrates traditional connectivity services with digital technological solutions

The line of travelers waiting to leave Costa Rica on Monday extended past the inside of the departures level, to outside, down the ramp, and onto the arrivals level. And all because of lack of server space.

And which, among other things, maintains a data center and one of its clients if the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería (DGME) – Costa Rica’s immigration service, the same people who are first to greet you as you arrive in the country and the same to check you out, though the latter is done behind the scenes.

What does this all have to do with anything, you ask?

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Well, it was a hard drive capacity problem experienced by Racsa that caused the crash of the immigration control system early this Monday at the Juan Santamaría airport, stranding more than 900 people at the San Jose airport for hours and delayed seven flights.

The director of immigration, Raquel Vargas blamed Racsa for the problem, which is of no consolation to the hundreds of travelers inconvenienced.

Racsa is a subsidiary of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), It is a state entity that cannot be canceled without an act of Congress, created at another time to provide telegraph service to Costa Ricans, then the first internet connections.

Since ICE cannot get rid of the unwanted relative and Congess has not the political will to kill it, Racsa has transformed into an information technology services company, with contacts to other state entities such as the DGME, for the management and storage of its databases.

According to Vargas, it is the first time that a failure of this nature. However, only in 2021, immigration has had other failures, four incidents in fact, for different causes.

Vargas, in a statement to the press, took the time to explain in boring and minute details Monday’s failure, “in a device called the Logical Unit Number (LUN). In data storage, a LUN is an address for a hard drive and is usually not the entire hard disk itself, but rather a virtual volume of one of these storage units, as part, in turn, of systems made up of several hard disk drives (…),”.

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The failure occurred around 3:00 am Monday. The service was restored four hours later, by 7:00 am. During those four hours, Vargas assured there were no manual passport reviews because immigration protocols now prevent such a procedure.

So people had to wait. They crowded the inside of the departures terminal and including formed a line outside, on the sidewalk, to the street level below, more than 200 meters to the doors.

Radiográfica is not talking to the press.

Why does this happen?

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While entering Costa Rica, visitors and residents, are subjected to the immigration process in person, by an immigration agent who interviews each and every entry, including consulting his or her computer.

Leaving Costa Rica, however, the immigration process is done behind the scenes.

In the old days, an immigration officer would review documents and stamp you out, the “exit” stamp.

Today, at the Juan Santamaria airport, passenger information is sent by the airlines to the immigration office, which is reviewed and cross-checked against the various databases. A failure in any one or more of the systems causes delays.

The delay previous to Monday’s was on April 27, when immigration control systems were affected by a general drop in ICE Internet service in Alajuela. On that day, everything was working, but there was no Internet.

Other interruptions are attributed to problems in databases of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), which immigration is obliged to consult and whose servers are located in France.

In April 2019, the Judiciary disconnected its own consultation systems with Interpol, to maintain the equipment, so on April 10 and 17 of that year, it paralyzed the immigration consultations.

That incident also affected arrivals, causing hundreds of travelers to huddle in the immigration arrivals hall and corridors for up to four hours while techs restored systems.

Several months earlier, on January 26, 2019, delays occurred to enter the Interpol consultation system; both at the Juan Santamaría and from the Daniel Oduber International Airport, in Liberia.

A few weeks before, on December 24, 2018, the migration control systems failed at both international airports. It was due to a problem in Interpol’s consultation program and also in the Judiciary consultation program on impediments to leaving the country.

Another incident happened on November 28, 2017, when a failure in an ICE equipment caused, from the early hours of the morning and during the morning of that day, delays in the departure of passengers on the Juan Santamaría.

According to Vargas, most of these disconnections were beyond immigration’s control.

“We have our own and external consultation systems. We have made an effort in recent years to create redundancy and backup servers for our databases, but the reality is that many of these problems are not related to us when they are external consultations on other computers,” she defends.

In the meantime, travelers, both arriving and leaving Costa Rica, are forced to wait. Miss connections. Get their plans all skewered.


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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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