New powers to capture foreign nationals' biometrics
19 December 2006
Powers to compel foreign nationals in the UK to register their biometrics will be considered by the Home Office in the New Year.
The power would be introduced on a rolling basis and would build on biometric IDs for foreign nationals, which will be introduced from 2008, targeting those applicants where cards will bring the greatest benefits, such as migrant workers seeking to extend their stay in the UK.
This news comes as Home Office Minister Liam Byrne published a Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme and the Borders, Immigration and Identity Action Plan, which follow the wider Home Office review earlier this year and signal the countdown to the introduction of ID cards to UK citizens in 2009.
The plans further underline how the use of identity checks and biometrics, including fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition, will help secure Britain's border and crackdown on illegal working and fraudulent access to services.
The plans show that:
• between January and May 2006 there were more than 7,000 positive hits by enforcement officers using mobile fingerprint equipment;
• there were 6,000 alerts, resulting in 620 arrests following people identified on warning lists attempting to travel on certain high risk routes into the UK;
• more than 1,500 people, who have previously claimed asylum or been fingerprinted for other immigration purposes, have been identified trying to return to the UK and have been caught out by new biometric visa processes;
• more than 51,000 people have enrolled in the Government's secure immigration scheme Iris, exceeding the Government's 40,000 target set out in the IND Review; and
nearly four million facial biometric British passports have been issued.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:
"We're determined that Britain won't be a soft touch for illegal immigration. Compulsory biometric identity for foreign nationals will help us secure our borders, shut down access to the illegal jobs, which we know attracts illegal immigrants, and help fight foreign criminals.
"The technology is already making a difference, stopping illegal immigrants returning to Britain once they've been deported, helping trusted travellers pass securely through our borders and cutting down abuse of the asylum system."
The Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme explains what the scheme is, what it will deliver and when, setting out how it will provide services to customers and plans for the National Identity Register. It announces plans to initiate a series of strategic partnerships across Government and the private sector that will shape the development of the scheme.
These real benefits will be realised by:
• ensuring the scheme delivers the best return on investment. Much of the cost of would be incurred regardless of the Scheme. Around 70 per cent of the cost of the combined passport and ID card will be required to keep our passports up to international standards;
• keeping risks and costs down by using existing Government IT systems;
• providing key safeguards which protect the privacy of the individual and ensure the integrity of the Scheme; and
• delivering a positive customer experience. The Identity and Passport Service has a customer service reputation that is second to none. The Home Office will ensure that those standards are maintained.