JOHOR BARU, MALAYSIA - Foreigners entering and leaving the country will have both index fingers scanned at Immigration checkpoints beginning next month.
The procedure is a new security feature to curb transboundary crime and terrorism.
Called the biometric fingerprint security system, it is aimed at enhancing security in the immigration clearance process, which currently involves only the stamping of passports and matching photographs in the passports to faces.
As forgery of travel documents is common these days, the new security system will allay this worry.
A trial period for the project is ongoing at 61 of the 96 entry points in the country.
Immigration Department directorgeneral Datuk Alias Ahmad said such a security measure was deemed necessary in view of the increasing number of foreigners who had abused their privileges as visitors.
He said three per cent of the 24.4 million foreigners who visited the country last year had been involved in various crimes.
"Usually, foreign criminals will use a different passport when they re-enter the country. If we have their fingerprint records, we will be able to check if they had previously used a different passport.
"If the answer is positive, it will be justified for us to suspect the motive of their visits and bar them from entering.
"The records will also assist police in checking if the foreigners had committed any criminal activities in the country, or if they are overstaying.
This will enable us to arrest them on the spot with the help of the police," he told the New Straits Times.
Scanners will be installed at Immigration booths in all air, land and sea entry points in the country by the end of this month to facilitate the full implementation of the system from June 1.
The new security feature is expected to delay immigration clearance at entry points but Alias said the total time would not exceed a minute once the system was in full swing.
"During the current trial period, there are bound to be hiccups. However, all the problems encountered will be identified and rectified." Alias said fingerprint scanning was a globally-recognised security feature as good as the facial biometric scanning introduced in countries like Thailand and Indonesia.
Several countries have implemented similar procedures.
In Japan, the prints of both index fingers are taken along with a photograph, while the United States in 2009 upgraded from a two-finger to a 10-finger system at ports of entry.
Brazil is another country that employs such a system, while the United Kingdom requires digital fingerprint scans for visa applications.
South Korea and the European Union will begin fingerprinting foreigners next year and in 2015, respectively.
- New Straits Times
Malaysia starts fingerprinting visitors
Malaysia has begun taking fingerprints from foreigners entering the country in a bid to prevent illegal immigrants coming in using fake papers, an official said Thursday.
Up to two million people -- mostly from neighbouring Indonesia and Burma -- work in Malaysia illegally, authorities say. Those arrested for working illegally or overstaying are deported but many try to return.
A pilot system, implemented at several entry points like the Kuala Lumpur International Airport since late last month, requires visitors to give prints of both index fingers, immigration spokesman Abdul Haidir Mohamad Sukor said.
He said the biometric system was expected to be implemented nationwide from June 1.
Malaysia has one of Asia's largest populations of foreign workers. Some 1.8 million people, mostly from poorer regional countries, work in such sectors as construction, plantations, manufacturing and hospitality.
The new scheme will help authorities keep better track of foreigners, said Abdul Haidir, with those caught overstaying or committing any other offences now unable to re-enter Malaysia under different identities.
"Starting from June 1, all foreigners must give their data," Abdul Haidir told AFP. "We collect all the data to ensure we can detect problems earlier, if they have committed any offence before."
"Before this in Malaysia, the overstayers are just sent back but they can come back with fake passports. With the biometric system, they cannot lie," he said.