Visa plan targets illegal immigrants

Tue, Dec 20, 2011, 00:00

The Republic and the UK will sign an agreement today that will see them share information on visa applications, including fingerprint biometrics and biographical details, as part of moves designed to improve the visa-issuing process.

The closer co-operation will help to address the issue of illegal immigration, ministers believe.

The deal could create “considerable savings” for both countries on removing foreign nationals with no right to stay, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) said.

Immigration minister Damian Green will meet his counterpart, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, in Dublin today to agree to work towards joint entry standards and “ultimately enhanced electronic border systems”.

The new system will help identify those with no right to enter the so-called common travel area (CTA) - comprising the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man - before they arrive at a border.

Information on applicants, particularly those from high-risk countries, will also be shared as part of efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and spurious asylum claims.

Some 500 applicants among the 1,516 failed asylum claims made so far this year in the Republic have been identified as being known to the UKBA, either as so-called “asylum shoppers” with previous asylum applications to the UK or as visa applicants.

A pilot scheme to check 1,700 Irish visa applications lodged in Nigeria against UK records also found more than 200 of these had either been deported from, or refused entry to, the UK, the UKBA said.

Due to the increased co-operation between the UK and Ireland, one immigration fraudster was caught with a number of fake identities after his zig-zag route across four countries was noticed by UKBA officers in Belfast.

Another Nigerian applicant was refused entry into this State after checks showed he had previously been removed from the UK in 2008 and the passport had been tampered with.

Mr Green said: “This agreement will help us quickly refuse those with poor immigration records, identify asylum shoppers and speed up the removal process in those cases where people have entered the common travel area.”

“The benefits the CTA brings to travellers and the economies of our countries are well-established but it should not be exploited by those with no right to be here.”

Mr Shatter said the agreement “provides a platform for greater co-operation on immigration matters, including joint action to protect the CTA from abuse by preventing potential immigration offenders from travelling to Ireland and the UK”.

“Working more closely together to preserve the integrity of the CTA also allows us to harness its potential to deliver economic and tourism benefits, an example being the Irish Visa Waiver Programme, which was launched earlier this year,” he said.

PA