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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
US begins entry checks on Muslims
Muslim men pray during a march in New York
There is anger at official racial and religious profiling
The United States Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) is starting to register people from selected Arab and Muslim countries on arrival into the country.

Under the new policy, immigration staff will routinely fingerprint, photograph and question potential entrants, checking their pictures and prints against criminal and terrorist databases.

Those affected by the new policy
all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria
non-immigrant foreign nationals who present an elevated national security risk
foreign nationals identified by INS inspectors
The US Justice Department has also issued a directive that anyone who has frequently visited the Middle East, North Africa, Cuba or North Korea can be taken aside too, if they do not have what it calls a credible explanation for their trip.

The policy is aimed at preventing a repeat of the security lapses which allowed the 11 September hijackers to live undetected in the US for so long.

Scrutiny extended

The measures, introduced nationwide on Tuesday, could potentially apply to any of the 35 million foreign visitors who come to the United States every year.

But all citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan will be targeted, and visitors - especially men - from other Muslim and Middle Eastern countries may also be subject to the new measures.

Airport security police check bags in Washington
Security measures have been increased since the 11 September attacks
The Arab-American community has reacted angrily to the news, saying people will be targeted on the basis of their race and religion.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also hit back, saying the new policy was a reflection of "anti-Muslim hysteria".

"Of course, I am upset," Dr Mahathir said. "Because of the acts of a few people, the whole Muslim world seems to have been labelled."

Even before the new regulations took effect, Dr Mahathir's deputy Ahmad Abdullah Badawi got a taste of America's strict entry procedure, when he was asked to remove his belt and shoes at Los Angeles airport before being allowed to fly on to New York.

Formal registration

Since the 11 September attacks, many Middle Eastern and North African visitors have been taken to one side for questioning.

I am truly ashamed for this country
Anna, USA

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Now those aged 16 to 45 deemed an "elevated security risk" will be formally registered by the authorities.

They will then have 30 days to say where they are living, working or studying.

BBC New York correspondent Jane Standley says it will be hard for the US bureaucracy to keep up with the new regulations, with more than 350 air and sea ports as well as land borders to monitor.

The BBC's Jane Standley
"Men aged 16 to 45 will be registered"
Dr Faroque Khan, Islamic Centre of Long Island
"It is clearly profiling of individuals based on their ethnicity and their country of origin"
The BBC's Susannah Price
"These latest checks are likely to put even more Pakistanis off visiting the United States"

Key stories

European probe


See also:

01 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Aug 02 | Americas
25 Oct 02 | Americas
06 Jun 02 | Middle East
26 Jun 02 | Americas
09 Apr 02 | Americas
16 May 02 | Americas
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