Thousands of visitors from 27 US allies, including Britain, Japan and Australia, will be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival in the US to tighten border security, US officials said on Friday. \nThe policy, to begin at airports and seaports by Sept. 30 and at the 50 busiest US land crossings by the end of the year, extends a program that started on Jan. 5 in which everyone who comes to the US on a visa -- except diplomats -- is fingerprinted and photographed on arrival. \nWith the new policy, this will be extended to citizens of the 27 "visa waiver" nations whose citizens generally do not need visas for short visits. \nUS officials say taking two digital index-finger scans and a photograph takes seconds and helps prevent attacks like those on Sept. 11, 2001, but the policy has upset many visitors and its expansion drew protests from the tourism industry. \nThe 27 nations affected are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. \nUS officials said the new policy reflected the likelihood that those nations would miss an Oct. 26 deadline to begin issuing passports with biometric data such as fingerprints. \nThe Bush administration said it asked the US Congress for a two-year extension to the deadline and said that its decision to fingerprint and photograph even visitors who do not need visas was designed to close a loophole. \n"It will add security by allowing us to check against our terrorist criminal watchlist those foreign visitors who are traveling from Visa Waiver Program countries," said Homeland Security Department Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson. \nCitizens from these countries, which include some of the closest US allies whose governments backed the invasion of Iraq, are generally permitted to visit the US without a visa for up to 90 days for pleasure or business. \nThe old policy applied to people from these nations who required US visas, for example to study or work legally. \nIt has angered many visitors and triggered retaliatory measures from nations including Brazil, which now fingerprints US visitors, and China, which has said it will require some US citizens seeking Chinese visas to appear for interviews. \nUS and British travel groups criticized the policy. \n"[We are] greatly disappointed and very concerned about potential negative reactions in key inbound tourism markets in western Europe, Japan and other important ... countries," said US Travel Industry Association president William Norman. \n"These new moves clearly will not help to encourage UK citizens to travel to the USA, and we would urge very strongly that the American authorities reconsider their actions," said a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents. \nUS officials said most Canadian citizens, most of whom do not need visas, will not be fingerprinted or photographed. \nThey also said Mexicans carrying border crossing cards -- which include biometric identifiers and are only issued after the person has had a background check -- are also exempt if they enter for 72 hours and stay within the "border zone." \nHutchinson said the US would not oppose moves by other countries to impose more security measures on US citizens. \n"We recognize that it's a two-way street," he said.
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured