Biometrics to catch 'fake' asylum seekers

The Home Office is deploying a facial recognition system to fight fraudulent asylum applications
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
The government is set to use digital images and facial recognition technology when screening asylum seekers in the UK in an attempt to further clamp down on fraudulent applications. The move coincides with government statistics this week that revealed asylum claims in the first quarter of the year fell by 32 per cent compared to the previous quarter from 23,385 to 16,000. A pre-tender document seen by silicon.com said the Home Office is looking to introduce scanning and facial recognition technology that can store images on a central database at its Croydon Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) later this summer. Asylum applicants will have their photographs and demographic details on any travel documents scanned on arrival to the UK. A digital photograph will also be taken and all the details will be stored on a database. When the applicants report to one of the ASUs to have their claim for asylum processed, the facial recognition technology will match them against the images taken when they arrived in the UK, ensuring that it is the same person. The document stated: "The captured data will be required to be encrypted and sent electronically to three locations in the UK. The system must be ready for installation at Croydon ASU by late summer 2003 with possibility of two further locations at Birmingham and Liverpool ASUs." The technology will support the Europe-wide £4.3m Eurodac biometric fingerprint database introduced earlier this year by the EC to prevent asylum seekers lodging applications in several countries to increase their chances of being accepted. From January, EU member countries have been digitally taking and storing the fingerprints of every asylum seeker over the age of 14. Countries can access the central database and check whether the person has applied for asylum in any other country. A Home Office spokesman said the facial recognition technology will be used as a back-up to the Eurodac system. "This would not be used across the board but as part of a project to support the fingerprinting information if, for example, for any reason their fingerprinting details in other countries are not available. We are constantly keeping new technology under review to see what benefits it could bring to this work."
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