UK immigration bill proposing biometric data collection from millions faces criticism
The recently updated Nationality and Borders Bill set out by the UK Home Office includes plans to introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system for EU travelers which could collect biometric data on up to 30 million people a year.
The digital visa system will require an online application process including digital document submission, and possibly biometric information and data collection, which rights groups have criticized.
Home secretary Priti Patel announced that citizens of countries who do not cooperate with the new system could be penalized with “deportations and removals,” the total suspension of the issuance of visas to the country in question, or the imposition of enforced increases to processing times or a £190 (roughly US$262) surcharge on applications.
Patel is no stranger to controversy. The Home Office came under fire earlier this year for accidentally deleting an estimated 150,000 arrest history records from the Police National Computer (PNC).
From the beginning of October the government scrapped the use of EU and EEA identity for travel into the UK due to fraud concerns as part of the country’s plan to convert to digital passports and biometric data as sole authentication requirements.
Further amendments to the bill include measures to enable the introduction of the ETA (electronic travel authorization – a visa-waiver) system whereby travel carriers will have to check that all passengers have correct authorization.
Criticism and warnings of the impact the bill could have been covered by The Guardian newspaper, rights groups; Amnesty International, Statewatch and the UN’s Refugee Agency, which has been vocal about the effects the bill will have particularly regarding the mass collection of biometric data. Statewatch reports that current safeguards on the processing of biometric and personal data risk jeopardizing rights under the European Convention on Human Rights to freedom from discrimination and to a “private and family life.”
The bill also proposes the use of X-rays on migrants who are suspected to be lying about age, in order to measure their bones, or take and analyze DNA samples.
Pre-pandemic travel volumes indicate that around 30 million people a year will need to gain an ETA under the bill’s legislation, with Ireland being the only country for which this will not be required.