EU visitors to have fingerprints taken

BRUSSELS Every visitor to the European Union would have to provide fingerprints before being allowed to enter, under plans unveiled yesterday to clamp down on illegal immigration.

The move to record the arrival and departure of non-EU citizens and to store the data in a single European database is part of a wider overhaul of border security. It is aimed at the largest single category of illegal migrants: people who remain once their visa or permit has expired.

Franco Frattini, the EU Justice Commissioner, argued that the existence of the electronic register containing a visitor’s personal details and final destination would make it possible to identify overstayers.

The scheme, which must be approved by all 27 EU governments before it can come into force in 2013 as proposed, has been criticised by civil rights groups. They fear that it could lead to a “fortress Europe” mentality against foreigners and to identity theft if the data were lost or stolen.