Australia toughens visa checks

New requirements include fingerprinting and face-scanning for "high risk" subjects.

    Officials plan to start collecting new personal data of visitors from 10 unnamed countries this year [AFP]

    "Australia now faces an increased terrorist threat from people born or raised in Australia who take inspiration from violent jihadist narratives," Rudd said.

    "Prior to the rise of self-styled jihadist terrorism fostered by al-Qaeda, Australia itself was not a specific target ... Now we are."

    Increased security

    Under the new measures, immigration officials will begin collecting the fingerprints and facial images this year, and cross-check them with immigration and law enforcement databases in Australia and overseas.

    Authorities plan to start collecting new information this year, with the implementation done in collaboration with Britain and the United States.

    Officials say the biometric data will prevent terrorists from evading detection [AFP]

    The government also plans to establish a "counter-terrorism" control centre to co-ordinate Australia's domestic and international intelligence efforts.

    The new biometric checks come amid heightened security concerns in Western countries following the failed attempt by a Nigerian man to bring down a commercial airliner bound for the United States on December 25.

    Last week, five Australian Muslim men convicted of plotting an attack in retaliation for Australia's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were sentenced to between 23 and 28 years in jail.

    The 10 countries subject to the new visa requirements were not named, except for references to Yemen, Somalia and the surrounding regions as a growing security concern.

    "We're not identifying those countries until the roll-out occurs," Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, said.

    "There may be a diplomatic effort required in regards to some of those countries, as you would expect."

    The US has strengthened its own airport checks for citizens from Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen, enforcing strict pat-down searches and baggage checks.

    The US checks also apply to citizens from countries that Washington blames for lending support to armed groups, including Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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