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Immigration agency to create biometric ID system for foreigners

2013/02/07 18:16:13

Taipei, Feb. 7 (CNA) The National Immigration Agency said Thursday it plans to establish a biometric identification system for foreigners, in light of a recent case in which a British man fled Taiwan on someone else's passport.

Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus whip Huang Wen-ling said at a press conference that Zain Dean, who was sentenced to four years in prison on drunken driving charges, was able to leave Taiwan because the immigration agency botched the screening process.

Huang said the agency spent NT$36 million (US$1.22 million) in 2008 to set up a three-in-one biometric identification system that allows fingerprinting and facial and retina scanning at major airports throughout the country.

But the system, which is also in place on the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu, applies only to Taiwan passport holders and foreigners who hold alien residence permits, Chen Chien-cheng, deputy commander of the agency's Border Affairs Corps, noted at the press conference.

Since Dean did not fall into any of those two categories, he was cleared by an immigration officer at the counter, Chen said.

Chen said the NIA in 2011 asked for NT$180 million to set up a biometric identification system for foreigners and has been allocated NT$73 million for 2013.

So far, it has received about NT$43 million to begin a trial run of the system at one selected airport, he added.

Yang Wan-li, an official at the Ministry of Justice, said the ministry made a proposal to the British government Feb. 1 on an extradition agreement and cooperative immigration inspection.

Dean's case raised a furor as prosecutors only realized he had fled Taiwan when he did not show up on Sept. 21 last year to begin serving his four-year prison sentence on charges related to the death of a newspaper delivery man. The victim was killed in a hit-and-run accident in March 2010.

It was later discovered that Dean had left Taiwan on Aug. 14 using a friend's passport. The friend was identified only as David, an English teacher in Taiwan who is also a British citizen. Dean is of Indian descent, while his friend is Caucasian.

Dean has since issued a public statement saying he fled the country because he was not given a fair trial but would be willing to return if Taiwan authorities agreed to a retrial and the presence of human rights monitors.

The immigration officer, surnamed Yu, who cleared Dean at the departure point, was given a major demerit. Yu's superior was also given a demerit and stripped of his management duties.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Ann Chen)