The global rollout of fingerprint checks on all visa applicants is complete three months ahead of schedule, and millions under budget, the Government announced today.
In a wide ranging speech to Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) staff, the Immigration Minister Liam Byrne congratulated agency officials and set out a challenging 'deal for delivery' in 2008, to secure the largest shake up to Britain's border security and immigration system for 40 years.
Anyone applying for a visa from 133 countries covering three quarters of the world's population now have their fingerprints checked against UK databases. Nearly 500 cases of identity swapping have been spotted already.
The minister also confirmed BIA exceeded the Prime Minister's target of removing or deporting more than 4,000 foreign national prisoners by the end of 2007 by 200 and went on to outline a day by day timetable for ten crucial milestones for new border protection over the next 12 months.
Liam Byrne said:
"The public wants stronger borders. They want us to shut down the causes of illegal immigration and hold newcomers to account, deporting rule breakers where necessary. They also want a compassionate system, which makes and enforces decisions fast when we have obligations to honour – and lets those we need contribute to Britain as long as they speak English, pay tax and obey the law.
"My goal therefore in 2008 is as ambitious as it is urgent. There are four themes to our work: protection, prevention, accountability and compassion. By Christmas the system will look and feel different. Every month the public will be able to see us not talking about change but delivering on our ten point plan for change. The public is right to demand a new system. We have listened. And we will act."
The milestones set out by the Minister are:
Biometric fingerprints have been taken from more than one million people, and so far 10,000 visa applicants have been identified who have previously been fingerprinted in the UK in connection with immigration cases or asylum applications.
In addition the Government is currently consulting on proposals to overhaul how marriage and short term visas are issued.
Taken together all these measures make-up the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history. They allow the UK to continue to reap the benefits of migration, while also preventing abuse of the system.