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Britain to Fingerprint Non-EU Visa Applicants

All visa applicants from non-European Union countries will have their fingerprints taken for checking against databases in the United Kingdom. From London, Tendai Maphosa has the details in this report for VOA.

The fingerprinting of visa applicants to the United Kingdom is the latest of many measures meant to curb illegal immigration.

The new rules require that anyone applying for a visa must submit to a digital finger scan and a full-face digital photograph. The move will affect the citizens of 133 countries who need a visa to visit Britain.

In a BBC radio interview, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the exercise is part of measures to secure the largest shake up to Britain's border and immigration system for 40 years.

"What we do is, first we check people's fingerprints against our databases, if they are not being straight about who they are then we stop them even getting on a plane or a train or a boat to come to Britain. But of course, what it does, allows us to do, is then we hold that fingerprint on our databases here so that we can start issuing ID cards, which will be compulsory for foreign nationals by Christmas."

Byrne added that the global rollout of the fingerprint checks launched last year has been completed three months ahead of schedule. To date, he said, nearly 500 cases of identity swapping have been spotted.

But Habib Rahman of the Joint Council for the welfare of Immigrants expressed concerns about the exercise.

"When the idea was introduced, what we said it would be discriminatory. The government gave us reasons why they need it, but we have no confidence that this, the biometric information, will be safe in the hands of government," he said.

Rahman said the security situation has already been highlighted by the loss of data of millions of British citizens by the government late last year.