Visitors to US face new tracking system


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tammudu   
Member since: Nov 02
Posts: 239
Location: USA

Post ID: #PID Posted on: 02-12-03 15:40:14

The US is ending a controversial programme to track the whereabouts of visitors from 25 mostly Muslim countries, but is set to replace it with a larger system that will monitor the arrival and departure of most travellers to the US.

The Homeland Security Department announced yesterday that it would end the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, under which the government required special registration and fingerprinting of thousands of men from Muslim countries.

The programme, created last year, was intended to prevent individuals from countries where al-Qaeda has been active from remaining in the US after their visas expired.

Its aim was to ensure that a visitor in the US on a temporary visa "is doing what he said he would be doing and living where he said he would live", according to the Homeland Security Department. Three of the 19 September 11 hijackers were in the US illegally on expired visas.

Under the scheme, more than 83,500 men already living in the US were registered and another 93,700 were fingerprinted upon their arrival in the US. The Homeland Security Department says "several individuals with possible terrorist links" were denied entry into the US because of the background checks required.

But the scheme created tremendous ill-will among important US allies, notably Pakistan. Many Pakistanis who were living and working in the US illegally have been forced out as a result of the registration requirements. Of the 83,500 people who registered in the US, more than 13,800 have been deported or face deportation for being there illegally.

In addition, many people inadvertently fell foul of the registration scheme, which required visitors to re-register with authorities 30 days after arriving in the country.

US officials said the programme was always intended as an interim measure and would be replaced next January by a system recording anyone who travels to the US on a visa. Some 23m people each year will be photographed and fingerprinted when they arrive in the US and will be required to inform US border authorities when they leave.

The new measures may further discourage travel to the US for tourism and business, both of which are down sharply since the September 11 attacks. Visa applications to the US have fallen from 10.5m in the 2001 fiscal year to 6.5m in the year ending September 30 this year.

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1069493643323





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