Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Asylum seekers to be fingerprinted
The fingerprinting is aimed at preventing illegal entrants
Asylum seekers as young as 14 will be fingerprinted regardless of whether they are suspected of having committed any offence, the Home Office has said.
The measure is aimed at cracking down on immigrants seeking to enter the UK illegally, the department said.
The UK is "opting in" to a proposed new European Union electronic fingerprint database.
The aim is to stop "asylum shopping", when immigrants denied asylum by one EU member state apply again to another.
Illegal entrants suspected of planning to make unjustified asylum claims could also have their fingerprints stored on the database.
The planned development will be discussed at next week's Special European Council meeting in Tampere, Finland, aimed at encouraging greater co-operation between states in handling the immigration and asylum issue.
The Home Office said it was difficult to gauge how widespread a problem "asylum shopping" was, but did say it believed experience suggested it was "substantial".
Of the 2,843 asylum applications received at Waterloo and 4,445 at Dover between January and August this year, all will have travelled through at least one EU member state and a certain proportion would certainly have claimed asylum or been detected as an illegal immigrant there, said the Home Office.
Minister Barbara Roche said EU states were committed to protecting genuine refugees.
She said: "However, all member states also face serious and growing problems of illegal immigration."
"We need to work co-operatively to tackle asylum and migration pressures, and develop a Europe-wide strategy for action."
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