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Learning English - Words in the News
14 January, 2008 - Published 14:26 GMT
UK biometric visas
Passport document being stamped

From today, visitors to the United Kingdom requiring a visa must have their fingerprints taken. The British Government says it's necessary to deter people from using false identities when they apply to enter the UK. This report from Andy Tighe:

Listen to the story

Under the new system, travellers to Britain from 133 countries - covering three quarters of the world's population - must now have their fingerprints checked against a database compiled by officials. The British Government says it's necessary to deter people from using false identities when they apply to enter the UK, including would-be asylum-seekers who've previously been turned down or deported, people with criminal records and wanted terrorists.

Nearly five hundred cases of identity swapping have been detected so far and the scheme is now fully operational three months earlier than expected. The Government also says it's exceeded its target for deporting foreign national prisoners at the end of their sentence, with more than four thousand removed last year.

By the end of this year the Government says it will begin issuing compulsory identity cards for all non-European Union foreign nationals in Britain, though it says the much more controversial plans to force British citizens to hold ID cards are some years away and require a change in the law.

Andy Tighe, BBC

Listen to the words

put/gathered together

to deter
to stop, to prevent

false identities
if you are using a false identity, you pretend to be someone else (by using another name and new, or stolen, official documents)

would-be asylum-seekers
people who are trying to leave their own country for safety (e.g. because of a political situation or war) and begin to live in another country, hoping that country's government will protect them

turned down or deported
here, 'turned down' means that your application for asylum in the UK has not been successful; 'deported' means sent back to the country you have been born in

found out, discovered

fully operational
working to its full capacity

something you must have, required by law

causing strong disagreement and debate

to force
to make, to give no other choice but

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