Lankans angry with British fingerprinting

The British government's pilot project to fingerprint visa applicants in Colombo has upset the sensibilities of many Sri Lankans.

    Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe (R), target of criticism

    Critics have said the British government is treating Sri Lankans like criminals by introducing such a procedure.


    On Wednesday, the Sri Lankan parliament had to briefly suspend sittings following an uproar over the issue.


    The trouble began when Speaker Joseph Michael Perera prevented an opposition member from discussing the controversial fingerprinting requirement which has been in place since July at the British High Commission.


    Petition filed


    Perera had to suspended sittings for 10 minutes after he was unable to control the din in the 225-member parliament.


    "Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government has sacrificed the dignity and self respect of the nation by agreeing to the move." 

    --Sri Lankan opposition

    He disallowed the opposition member from speaking because he said a legislator had already petitioned the Supreme Court on the issue.


    Opposition MP, Mangala Samaraweera, and an associate filed a case on Tuesday saying that citizens were being treated like criminals by the British authorities.


    President Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance (PA), which is the main opposition party, has severely criticised Britain for deciding to fingerprint visa applicants and said it would have resisted the move if it was in control of parliament.


    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government had sacrificed the "dignity and self respect" of the nation by agreeing to the move, the opposition said.


    On July 23 the British High Commission began fingerprinting Sri Lankans applying for visas as part of what it called a plan aimed at cracking down on immigration and asylum abuse.


    It said the Sri Lankan government was cooperating fully with the move.


    Only children below the age of five years, diplomatic passport holders and officials and United Nations staff travelling on official business are exempt from the new requirement.


    "Fingerprint data will be held electronically to help identify the significant number of Sri Lankans who, on or after arrival in the UK, make fraudulent asylum or immigration applications in a false identity," a British Home Office statement said.


    "It would also help to return failed asylum seekers from Sri Lanka who destroy their documents by helping to establish their true nationality."


    Diplomats said that the scheme would be tested here for about six months before deciding on whether to extend it to other countries.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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