Overseas students face biometric scans

The move has raised concerns, with overseas student educators calling for it to be handled sensitively to ensure negative attitudes to Australia as a study destination are not compounded by the initiative.
The Immigration Department last week confirmed that biometrics would be extended from detainees and asylum-seekers to most types of offshore visa applications, including student visas.
The screening process has been described by the Immigration Department as a discreet, non-intrusive examination that captures a digital facial image and 10-digit fingerprint scan.
The first stage of the trial will be applied at two locations. It then will be extended to missions across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East in line with procedures already operating in Britain, the US, Japan and parts of the Middle East.
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People applying for English-language and schools-sector visas as well as for vocational education, higher education, postgraduate research and AusAID visas will be among those subjected to biometric scanning, an Immigration Department fact sheet says. .
“National security and fraud risks in the visa caseload” would guide the biometric collection categories, a department spokesman said.
The move follows the Immigration Department’s receipt of a confidential risk assessment of Australia’s student visa program last year that raised concerns about identity fraud in higher and vocational education visas.
In 2005, some British universities and colleges of higher education were suspected of becoming safe havens for terrorist ideas and recruits, according to London-based think tank the Social Affairs Unit.
At least two of the London bombers, who killed 52 people in July that year, had studied at British universities or higher education colleges, the Social Affairs Unit noted.
Dennis Murray, executive director of the International Education Association of Australia, said biometric scanning was an increasingly important tool in the fight against identity crime, and “potential students are part of that picture”.
But it would be important for the matter “to be handled sensitively at overseas posts so as not to reinforce the current unfortunate perception that international students are not welcome in Australia”, he said.
Council of International Students Australia president Robert Atcheson said clear rules were needed to protect individuals’ privacy.
Biometric data collection will begin at selected locations in the next seven weeks; these will be announced as they are rolled out.
The government has come under pressure for not naming the countries to be targeted but it has argued it doesn’t want undesirables exploiting the information before the system is in place.