March 6, 2008
H/l: Biometric ID cards on the anvil
Intro: Your biometric visa card to the UK may just become your ID card for use all over the EU
From: Vrushali Lad
Mumbai: The United Kingdom is tightening the screws on internal security and immigration frauds. On Thursday, UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in a radio interview that foreign nationals and visitors to the UK would be required to obtain national biometric identity cards this year onwards.
“Increasingly, we need to be able to prove our identity in a whole range of ways: when we’re travelling, when we’re opening a bank account or accessing government services. We’re all better protected if we can be confident that other people are who they say they are,” The Times quoted Smith.
The biometric visa to the UK has already been introduced in India from December 2007 onwards, in which every applicant has to submit fingerprints and allow a digital photograph to be taken at the time of applying for a visa. With this new initiative, applicants will also have to surrender personal details apart from fingerprints, to be stored in a microchip on the card. The card must be carried whenever the person travels, and must be produced whenever asked for by authorities.
The ultimate aim is to get visitors’ and nationals’ biometrics into the national identity register, so that even those foreign nationals who have so far resisted submitting their personal details will come into the purview of the security agencies.
The Home Office is yet to decide on how to implement the scheme for foreigners who come from countries such as India, where there is the most widespread abuse of the immigration system. It may be noted that the biometric visas were also introduced in India after Mumbai police unearthed a huge fake visa racket in December 2007.