Sri Lankans who apply for a visa to come to the UK are to be fingerprinted in a six-month pilot scheme. If successful, similar measures will be deployed for other countries.
The scheme is due to begin on 14 July, after which all applicants for a visa at the British High Commission in Colombo will have the print of their index finger electronically scanned. Information will be stored on a database which a number of UK state agencies, including the police, will have access to. Over the next month, fingerprint scanners will be installed at points of entry to the UK.
Home Office minister Beverley Hughes claimed that the initiative was ‘not about creating a “fortresss Europe”. It is about bearing down on those who would abuse our immigration and asylum system’. She said that Sri Lanka had been singled out for the pilot because of the large number of Sri Lankans leaving the country without documents. But Mayan Vije, Sri Lanka Project Co-ordinator at the British Refugee Council, said: ‘It is wrong to assume that asylum seekers who lack official documents are in some way acting in a fraudulent manner. Many asylum seekers who destroy their documents do so through fear and others will have had their documents removed from them.’
Many Sri Lankans are already angry with the service offered at the British High Commission in Colombo, where, it is claimed, visa applicants have to queue for long periods of time and are treated rudely by staff. The cost of applying for a standard visa is around