Feeds

UK plays asylum card to expand visa biometric scheme

East Africans get dabbed after wild success (nine dangerous fraudsters nicked) of Sri Lanka pilot

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The UK Home Office has announced the next step in its love affair with biometrics. As of March, visa applicants in five east African countries will be required to provide a record of their fingerprints. This is what applicants for visas for the US have to do these days, but in Britain we appear to be going for the thin end of the wedge rather the 'fingerprint the lot of them' counterstrike favoured by the Brazilians.

The Home Office move is an initiative to tackle asylum abuse rather than to guard against terrorism and, says the announcement, "is part of a Government action plan to tackle unfounded asylum claims from Somali nationals and fraudulent claims by individuals claiming to be Somalis [and] represents the next step in the Government’s phased roll-out of biometric technology to tackle immigration abuse."

"We know that a significant proportion of asylum seekers claiming to be Somali are actually from neighbouring east African countries," says Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes. Indeed, and as the announcement says, that significant proportion is 10 per cent. The Home Office also knows, via its research service, how many asylum applicants claiming to be from Somalia it has. That number, for Q3 2003, was 1,440, which means that for that quarter the number of people it reckons applied for a visa in east Africa and on arrival, destroyed their documents and claimed to be Somali, was 144. Somali applications represented about ten per cent of the total for that quarter.

The UK currently receives in the region of 150,000 immigrants per year, while total asylum applications for 2002 were 84,130. An estimated 42 per cent had some success (grants of asylum, 10 per cent; exceptional leave to remain, 23 per cent; allowed appeals, 10 per cent).

So at the current rate we can assume fingerprinting all of the visitors from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda (Kenya to follow) will help catch 600 fraudulent applicants a year. We can't go on historical numbers, because Somali applicants went up 60 per cent from Q2 to Q3, and we can't say it will be wholly responsible for catching them, because many of them are already being caught by other means.

Nowhere in the announcement does the Home Office tell us how much it will cost to equip the relevant visa offices with the technology. It does however reveal that the east African initiative follows "a successful pilot" with Sri Lanka which ran for six months from July 2003. This "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." Nine collars fingered in six months - outstanding. But it was such a success (sic) that the Sri Lanka project is being extended. There were 4,285 asylum applicants from Sri Lanka in 2002, with 3,670 of these refused. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.