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Friday, October 8, 1999 Published at 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK

UK Politics

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.

[ image: Roche: EU members face growing problems of illegal immigration]
Roche: EU members face growing problems of illegal immigration
The government also hopes the so-called Eurodac Regulation will make it easier to enforce the Dublin Convention, under which the first member state an asylum seeker passes through has responsibility for processing the claim.

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.

'Substantial' problem

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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