Blunkett Targets Illegal Migrants in High-Tech War

By Hughes, David | Daily Mail (London), April 12, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Blunkett Targets Illegal Migrants in High-Tech War


Hughes, David, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: DAVID HUGHES

A POWERFUL array of high-tech devices is to be deployed against bogus asylum seekers under tough new laws published today.

Sophisticated eye scanners and digital face mapping will provide a foolproof method of identification and will be at the forefront of the most comprehensive crackdown on illegal immigration yet seen.

Under David Blunkett's proposals, airlines and ferry operators will be given access to Home Office computer data to make their own checks on their passengers before issuing a 'right to travel.' No one will be allowed to embark for this country without one.

The key to the Home Secretary's drive to catch illegal migrants in this country - and those plotting to smuggle themselves in - lies in a bristling armoury of 21st century technology.

Asylum seekers presenting themselves at ports and airports will be required to provide 'biometric' data - digital images of the face, the iris, and fingerprints.

The identification data will allow immigration officials to keep track of claimants and prevent them disappearing into the black economy. It will also make benefits fraud more difficult.

Anyone applying for a visa for Britain will also be required to provide biometric data which will be stored on a microchip and placed on the visa.

Once there, it will allow the authorities to check that those arriving in this country are who they say they are.

Last night it also emerged that a highly-secret operation - codenamed Hornet - has seen the successful deployment of state-of-the-art scanning devices to identify forged visas and passports.

In January alone, they led to the discovery of 260 sets of false documents at Dover and their use has recently been extended to Heathrow.

The measures will trigger an outcry from civil rights and race relations groups, but Mr Blunkett is in no mood to compromise on his Asylum and Immigration Bill.

He was stunned at the state of the asylum control system when he took over last June and has made its reform one of his top political priorities.

The Bill will go before the Commons later this month and will be on the Statute Book by the autumn.

Under it, Mr Blunkett will oblige airlines, ferries and Eurostar to make their own checks on the status of travellers before allowing them to embark.

The carriers will be able to access the Home Office's database to check if travellers are known to the immigration authorities, or whether they are suspected terrorists.

In time, the biometric images will form part of this database, giving immigration officials an effective weapon in policing points of entry to this country.

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