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Biometrics To Be Used In UK To Tackle Asylum Abuse
London, Jan 22, 2004 (Public Tech) Ė Visitors to the UK from five east
African countries and those traveling on refugee documents issued by
other countries will have to provide fingerprint data before they
enter the UK, the Home Office has announced.
A Statutory Instrument allowing for the collection of fingerprints
from these visa applicants and holders of 1951 Convention Travel
Documents was laid before the House of Commons yesterday.
The regulations are expected to come into force at the end of
February. Visa applicants of all nationalities will be required to
give fingerprints when submitting applications from March 2004 in
Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Asmara (Eritrea), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania),
Djibouti and Kampala (Uganda). We also propose to extend this to
Nairobi (Kenya) in due course, regulations will be laid to allow this
at a later date.
The Government's strategy to increase the use of biometrics to tackle
immigration abuse was set out in August 2003, and a biometric visa
trial in Sri Lanka was announced in July 2003.
This move is part of a Government action plan to tackle unfounded
asylum claims from Somali nationals and fraudulent claims by
individuals claiming to be Somalis. It also represents the next step
in the Government's phased rollout of biometric technology to tackle
immigration abuse. High-tech biometrics can help identify people who
have entered the country legitimately then destroy their travel
documents to claim asylum in a false identity, or make it more
difficult to remove them if their asylum claim is refused.
The legislation to facilitate greater use of physical data
(biometrics) is included in section 126 of the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
From March 2004:
- those applying for visas to come to the UK from Djibouti, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda will be required to provide a record of
their fingerprints when applying for a visa. Evidence shows that a
significant proportion of asylum seekers who claim to be from Somalia
are in fact from other east African countries - a recent pilot
language analysis exercise suggested that the number may be over 10
per cent of all 'Somali' claimants.
- Individuals seeking to enter the UK using '1951 Convention travel
documents' will have their fingerprints recorded and their documents
photocopied. Intelligence suggests that asylum claims are being made
in the UK - often in false names - by those who already have refugee
status in other countries.
Home Office Minister, Beverley Hughes, stated:
"The progressive roll-out of biometric technology is a powerful tool
in tackling abuse of our asylum and immigration system. It will make
it more and more difficult for people to hide their identity by
destroying their documents after they have legally entered the UK.
"The move complements the Government's radical programme of reform to
tackle abuse of the asylum system. Legislation currently before
Parliament will tackle the final parts of the system in need of
"We know that a significant proportion of asylum seekers claiming to
be Somali are actually from neighboring east African countries.
Together with the roll-out of specialist language analysis, recording
the fingerprints of visa applicants from this region is part of a
concerted Government strategy to cut fraudulent asylum applications
from this region.
"We also believe that individuals are exploiting international refugee
travel documents to claim asylum in the UK under a false identity.
Ensuring we have a secure way of recording someone's identity will
close help this loophole.
"Dealing with those who are abusing the system is vital to build
public trust and confidence in our immigration and asylum policies, so
we can welcome those who have a legal right to be here."
The east African biometric visa initiative follows a successful pilot
to record the fingerprints of those applying for visas from Sri Lanka.
Since the initial six month project started in July 2003, it has led
to the identification of seven undocumented asylum applicants who
destroyed their passports after entering the UK, and a further two
people have been prosecuted. As a result of this success, the project
in Sri Lanka will be extended.
Biometric technology is already used successfully to combat abuse of
the asylum system. All asylum seekers in the UK are fingerprinted and
issued with a high-tech ID card containing a biometric chip. Asylum
seekers' fingerprints are now also recorded on "Eurodac", the EU-wide
database, designed to combat asylum shopping.
The Government has also announced that it had signed an arrangement
with the Sri Lankan Government, under which there will be a faster and
more efficient system for issuing travel documents to Sri Lankan
citizens who do not have the right to enter or remain in the UK. The
arrangement will help return up to 100 people a month, and is the
result of the co-operation from the Sri Lankan government on illegal
immigration, which has contributed to a significant reduction in
unfounded asylum claims from that country.
The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill which is
currently before Parliament, seeks to help tackle organized
immigration criminals, ensure that criminals do not gain from
dishonesty and introduces a new speed and finality to the appeals and
removals process. The Bill also contains enabling powers to introduce
tagging or tracking to maintain better contact with those subject to