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Immigration staff working without vital data

Public servants using a massive electronic watch list to stop war criminals and visa fraudsters coming to Australia still cannot use a biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images even after millions of dollars was given to their department to make it happen.

The department's attempt to set up a steering committee to improve the watch list failed because of a lack of interest and management oversight, a fresh audit report says.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection staff are still being forced to identify visa applicants using biographical sources which have “a varying degree of reliability”.

It said $83 million for a biometric watch list and other initiatives using the same data was handed to the department between 2004 and 2010.

The revelation comes as the Coalition touts the success of Operation Sovereign Borders after more than 100 days have passed without an asylum seeker boat arriving.

The wealth of biometric information Australia has collected from detainees and overseas visa applicants since 2006 would give greater certainty to staff assessing a rising number of applications and fraudsters armed with better technology.

Bureaucrats are doing just over 30 million traveller checks a year now and will need to deal 50 million by 2020.

The Australian National Audit Office's (ANAO) report stopped short of recommending the inclusion of biometric testing in the watch list.

It did say biometrics would enhance the system and noted the department has been looking into the use of biometrics for at least 15 years.

The same report found large improvements in the watch list, particularly the overall accuracy of data.

But there were other weaknesses.

Only two out of five recommendations from a 2008 audit were implemented as of last year, even though ANAO and a parliamentary committee had been told the recommendations were substantially completed.

“More focused senior management oversight could have been directed to the implementation of the recommendations," the report said.

People and documents on the list, known as the central movement alert list (CMAL), remain for as long as 120 years but are not subject to systematic reviews to upgrade data deficiencies which might unnecessarily inconvenience travellers.

The latest audit report, completed late February, also found the department still did not collect information showing where the watch list had been used in visa and citizenship decisions.

5 comments so far

  • I just returned to Sydney - new passport - but the new eye recognition processing did not work ?? Is this because it is the first time I have used a passport with this techology and it will recognise me next time ? Or . . . .

    Date and time
    April 01, 2014, 12:22PM
    • I have had that problem over the past 2 years (but never in NZ) and I have no way of knowing why this is so. Perhaps a revamp of the system in place is required?

      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 1:57PM
  • This is why no boats are coming .... they're coming by cruise liners or plane !!!
    Overworked border protection people + out of date checking technology + advanced production of fake documents = easy entry.
    This is where the main focus is needed.

    Business as usual
    Date and time
    April 01, 2014, 12:44PM
    • It's an Irish system...Sort of..It works..and it doesn't work...sometimes.
      I've used it a dozen times over two years, and I guess it's worked Six or Seven times, correctly. The System in Dubai, took my Photo and Fingerprint, once. 15 Visits over three years. It works every time.

      Very strange though that Border Protection seems hit or miss,even with $83 MIllion spent on "technology".

      As an example, we have the Department of Immigration issue Court derived Deport Orders ,to a certain Melbourne based Muslim individual, TEN Times over Ten Years, and he's STILL HERE????? If I broke the Law ONCE, I'd be like Derryn Hinch. Behind Bars, but this drag on our Society just tells the Authorities,to "Get Stuffed",and on top of that he's a Bloody Troublemaker and here, illegally.

      Can somebody at Border Protection please explain why they can't send him back to where he came from?

      True Blue
      Palm Beach
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 1:14PM
      • I thought passports and the facial recognition processes being criticised here were the responsibility of DFAT in the first instance?

        Date and time
        April 01, 2014, 5:43PM

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