UK to collect migrant fingerprints in France and plans longer retention of terrorism suspect biometrics
UK border officers have been instructed by the Home Office to collect fingerprints from migrants attempting to enter the country through the Eurotunnel, while a series of proposals by the UK government would significantly increase the scheduled retention period for biometric data collected for purposes related to suspected terrorist activity, Homeland Security Today reports.
The government has tabled new powers under Schedule 3 in Parliament as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, updated the code of practice for Schedule 7 powers, and also proposed revisions for the guidance provided to police and other officials under Schedule 2 for making or renewing National Security Determinations (NSDs), which authorize the retention and use of fingerprint and DNA biometrics for national security purposes.
The changes would extend the maximum length of an NSD from two years to five, allow police chiefs in England and Wales to declare NSDs for biometric data collected by other forces, and allow a single NSD to include the retention of multiple sets of fingerprints. The proposals would also align rules for automatic retention of biometrics under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 with those applying to the same offences under the Terrorism Act 2000, and clarify the legal retention for up to six months of biometric data under NSDs for non-terrorism related arrests.
The government published a response to the Home Office consultation on the changes to the codes of practice for Schedule 3 and Schedule 7, though most of the changes related to biometrics retention are contained in Schedule 2 amendments.
More records are expected to be collected, as well.
Complicating matters somewhat, UK Border Force officers in the Calais area do not have digital fingerprint scanners, making their new task to fingerprint migrants attempting to board trains for Britain particularly challenging, according to the BBC.
The purpose of the process is to return migrants to France if they are subsequently found to have left the country for the UK.
The union for officers said that both staff and migrants could be hurt in violent responses from people attempting to avoid being fingerprinted, and that the process could present a major challenge.
“We don’t have digital fingerprint recorders, we only have wet ink. So you have literally got to hold their hands and roll their fingers from side to side to get a print,” Lucy Moreton, a representative of officer’s union ISU, told the BBC.
UK Border Force previously took fingerprints from migrants in France, but discontinued the practice in 2010 after staff and migrant injuries, and incidents of migrants attempting to damage their fingerprints beyond usability.