Registering Every Person in the World

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December 18, 2001

Every person in the world would be fingerprinted and registered under a universal identification scheme to fight illegal immigration and people smuggling outlined at a United Nations meeting today.

The plan was put forward by Pascal Smet, the head of Belgium's independent asylum review board, at a roundtable meeting with ministers including Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock this afternoon.

Mr Smet said the European Union was already considering a Europe-wide system, using either fingerprints or eye scanning technology, to identify citizens. But he said the plan could be extended worldwide.

"There are no technical problems. It is only a question of will and investment," he said.

"If you look to our societies, we are already registered from birth until death. Our governments know who we are and what we are. But one of the basic problems is the numbers of people in the world who are not registered, who do not have a set identity, and when these people move with real or fake passports, you cannot identify them.

"It's a basic rule of management that if you want to manage something, you measure it. It's the same with human beings and migration.

"But instead of measuring it, you have to register them."

Mr Smet said the scheme would give people dignity by giving them an identity if their papers had been lost or destroyed.

And he said it would allow countries to open their borders to genuine travellers or asylum seekers, because they would be able to prove the identity of any over-stayers and deport them without argument from their home country.

Mr Ruddock appeared unconvinced by the merits of the plan.

"In principle we would be supportive of a system which would crack down on multiple asylum claims, but a universal identification system would be taking it too far," he said through a spokeswoman.

By Maria Hawthorne

Copyright 2001 John Fairfax Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


A.K. Pritchard

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