24 August 2009

Australia immigration security boosted with international co-operation

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A new international agreement will boost Australia's ability to detect and identify immigration fraud and enable Australia to use a larger information net when checking the backgrounds of unauthorised arrivals and other people held in immigration detention.

The Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said that an agreement for biometric data-sharing between Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom was signed recently.

Under the partnership, Australia will be able to securely and confidentially cross check fingerprints with Canadian and UK databases. Currently, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship collects fingerprints from all people in immigration detention, including irregular arrivals and illegal foreign fishers. It is expected fingerprint collection will be progressively rolled out to other people in the Australian immigration caseload in the future.

"The Australian Government's ability to detect immigration and identity fraud will be greatly improved as a result of new biometric data-sharing arrangements with partner agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom,' Senator Evans said.

"This data-sharing will help to establish the true identities of unknown people, and ensure that fraudulent cases are dealt with appropriately through the improved ability to detect inconsistent identity and immigration claims.

"It will also help authorities to increase the chance of detecting people with criminal histories and other people of concern, aid in the timely removal of unlawful non-citizens where their identities and/or nationalities were previously unknown or uncertain, and improve detection of fraudulent immigration practices and trends."

The new biometric data-sharing plan was developed at the Five Country Conference, which is a forum on immigration and border security between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US is expected to join the data-sharing arrangement in due course.

The benefits of international biometric data sharing were highlighted recently when an individual claiming asylum in the UK was found to have previously been fingerprinted in the USA while travelling on an Australian passport.

The individual was subsequently confirmed as an Australian citizen wanted for sexual assault. The man was removed to Australia to face court, and is now serving a jail sentence.

Senator Evans said the new data-sharing arrangements would not affect privacy laws.

"The protection of personal information is important to all the countries involved in these arrangements. All data shared by my department will adhere to the Privacy Act 1988," the minister said.

 


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