Australia to fingerprint, face-scan visitors

The Australian government plans to start fingerprinting and face-scanning visitors from 10 high-risk countries, officials said Tuesday.

Australia plans to fingerprint and face-scan visitors from 10 high-risk countries, say government officials.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the plan on Tuesday as he released a government white paper compiled by intelligence agencies. The paper said Islamist radicals born or raised in Australia represent a permanent and increased threat to the country.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith echoed the Prime Minister's comments. He said the white paper shows that the threat from al-Qaeda is evolving, and Australia must also be aware of threats from "homegrown" terrorists.

"We have to be very careful to watch that in Australia," he said.

An Australian court handed out heavy jail sentences last week to five Australians of Lebanese, Libyan and Bangladeshi origin for conspiring to commit an act, or acts, in preparation for a terrorist act between July 2004 and November 2005. They had gathered weapons and planned to attack an unknown target.

Smith would not say which countries will be included in the list, but applicants from those nations will have to submit their fingerprints and photos to be cross-checked against databases of known criminals and terrorists.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, the white paper says al-Qaeda-linked groups in Yemen and Sudan are the new centre of threat internationally, and the risks posed by Afghanistan and Pakistan remain high.

The paper says that, despite Indonesia's successes against terrorism, the Jakarta hotel attacks of last July point to an ongoing threat there, says the BBC.

The biometric scanning is expected to cost about $65 million Cdn.

With files from The Australian Broadcasting Corporation