A new fingerprint sharing deal with Canada and Australia will boost the fight against identity fraud, the Home Office announced today.
Under the new data sharing agreement, the UK will be able to swap fingerprint information of foreign criminals and asylum seekers with these two countries - making it easier than ever to flag up those migrants who try to hide their past from authorities, while ensuring personal information continues to be protected.
This ground-breaking agreement has been developed by the members of the Five Country Conference, which is a forum for cooperation on measures to improve immigration controls and border security. The United States will be joining shortly and New Zealand is considering legislation to join in the near future.
Each country will have the same ability to check fingerprints and for the first year of the agreement each country will be able to share 3,000 sets of fingerprints with partner countries -
The collaboration will make it easier to detect those people with previous criminal histories in other countries, as well as speed up removals, and establish previously unknown identities.
UK Border Agency Deputy Chief Executive, Jonathan Sedgwick, said:
"We already have one of the toughest borders in the world and we are determined to ensure it stays that way.
"We are continuing to expand our watch-lists, work more closely with foreign Governments to share information, and speed up the re-documentation of those being removed.
"This new agreement will help us identify and remove individuals whose identities were previously unknown but also improve public safety through better detection of lawbreakers and those coming to the UK for no good."
These checks are complementary to the ones we already undertake with our European partners and trials of the data-sharing agreement have already reaped results, with individuals' identities being revealed through the exchange and checking of fingerprints.
In one such case, an individual claiming asylum in the UK as a Somali was found to have previously been fingerprinted on arrival in the USA while traveling on an Australian passport.
Australia subsequently confirmed that the individual was an Australian citizen wanted for rape. This resulted in his deportation to Australia, where he faced court proceedings and is now serving a jail sentence.
The protection of personal information is important to all the countries involved in this project and the specific measures that are being employed to protect privacy include:
* ensuring that all fingerprints remain anonymous and cannot be linked to an individual unless a match is detected between countries;
* destroying fingerprints once a match has been completed with no fingerprint database being compiled; and