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Aust. Border Security: Biometrics, Passport Alerts

Border Security Enhanced by Biometrics, Passport Alert List Trials

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone today said trials of two new systems at Sydney airport could help dramatically strengthen Australia’s border security.

The trials involve a state of the art biometrics system and a new counter-terrorism passports alerts system.

Biometric System

‘About nine million travellers come both into and out of Australia every year and a significant number are referred to immigration officers for further checking,’ the Minister said.

‘Biometrics can take much of the guess work out of this further checking process.

‘The trial tests our capacity to record, store and match biometric information effectively and efficiently using two main groups of volunteers.

‘The first group involves overseas travellers selected for further checking by immigration officials at the airport. Biometric information, including fingerprints, iris scans and facial information will be collected from volunteers. This will test our capacity to effectively and efficiently record and store the information.

‘The second group comprises refugees travelling to Australia from Africa. These volunteers have had their biometric information recorded before departure. When they arrive in Sydney they are asked to again provide their biometric details allowing us to test our capacity to match the information.

‘The trial is the second step in developing our capacity to use biometrics.

‘The process started last year with testing in a laboratory. The airport trial and others this year are the first live trials in operational areas.

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‘In the future, we could also take biometric information from people turned around at the border and add this information to alert lists.’

The trial is part of a four year program of testing and implementing biometrics systems across the whole of government as announced in the Federal Budget.

Passports Alert System

The second system will enhance border security through a new counter-terrorism initiative being trialled by Australia and the United States.

‘The system means that from anywhere in the world, if you check in for an Australia-bound flight with US travel documents, there will be an automatic, online search of the US records of lost, stolen or otherwise invalid documents at the point of check in. If all clear, the airline is given authority to board the passenger,’ the Minister said.

‘This is critical because there are more than three million lost or stolen passports recorded against APEC economies. In the wrong hands they could provide access to Australia to people who are not entitled to it, including terrorists and criminals.

‘The Regional Movement Alert List (RMAL) means we have instant and direct access to the most up to date information available on US travel documentation.

‘This is a powerful addition to Australia’s border security system.

‘It complements Australia’s border security measures such as the Movement Alert List (MAL), which contains over 380 000 identities of people of concern.’

RMAL is an APEC counter-terrorism initiative. The trial has begun with Australia and the United States. New Zealand is planning to join the trial later this year and other APEC nations are expected to join in the future.

‘Airlines and passengers will not see any changes to current procedures, but it does demonstrate that we are constantly working to improve measures to further limit the opportunities for criminals and terrorists.

‘My Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have worked closely with counterparts in the US to get the pilot happening.’

An evaluation report of the trial will be presented to APEC Leaders in November 2005.

© Scoop Media

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