UK to require biometric data for visas from five African countries

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- visa applicants and those with 1951 Convention travel documents to be fingerprinted before departure

Following the example of the USA - who now require fingerprints and a photo for all non-EU visitors - the UK is to require all visa applicants from five east African countries (Dijibouti, Eriteria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda) to give their fingerprints and "individuals seeking to enter the UK using "1951 Convention travel documents". The Home Office says the "east African biometric visa initiative" is to counter "abuse".

The Home Office says that a six month project carried out in Sri Lanka had identified only seven undocumented asylum applicants and two other who have been prosecuted - it concludes "As a result of this success, the project in Sri Lanka will be extended".

On arrival in the UK all asylum-seekers are anyway fingerprinted and copies are sent to Eurodac. They are given a "high-tec card, containing a biometric chip" and under the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Bill may be tagged or tracked.

See: UK plays asylum card to expand visa biometric scheme by John Lettice (The Register)

Home Office press release

Reference: 024/2004 - Date: 21 Jan 2004 11:27

Visitors to the UK from five east African countries and those travelling on refugee documents issued by other countries will have to provide fingerprint data before they enter the UK, the Home Office announced today.

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 roll-out 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.

From March:

- 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 reform.

"We know that a significant proportion of asylum seekers claiming to be Somali are actually from neighbouring 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 secu

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