Written Answers. - Asylum Applications.

Brian Hayes

Ceist:

138 Mr. B. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide details of his proposed electronic fingerprinting system for asylum seekers; and when such system will be put in place. [24847/01]

Alan Shatter

Ceist:

444 Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide details of the proposed electronic fingerprinting system for asylum seekers; and when this system will be put in place. [27688/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 444 together.

Section 9A(1) of the Refugee Act provides for the fingerprinting of asylum applicants over the age of 14. The purpose of fingerprinting is twofold: first, it facilitates the detection of multiple applicants in the State and, second, it is essential for the effective application of the Dublin Convention.

Over 14,000 sets of fingerprints have been taken since the full commencement of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended, on 20 November 2000. Almost 6,500 sets of prints have been sent to other member states for comparison under the Dublin Convention. Almost 500 matches have been confirmed to date. Fingerprinting of asylum seekers is being introduced on a phased basis: a semi-automated system, whereby fingerprints are taken manually and processed, stored and matched electronically, was introduced following the full commencement of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended); as soon as possible, a fully automated electronic national fingerprinting system will be developed and introduced which will also interface with the Eurodac computerised fingerprint database to facilitate the implementation of the Dublin Convention.
A project board has been established to oversee the development and introduction of the proposed full electronic system. A consultant has also been engaged by my Department to advise on the necessary technical and business requirements for the development which must be compatible with the Eurodac system. His initial report is expected shortly. The expectation is that the full electronic system will be up and running within 12 to 15 months. This will enable us to streamline the system currently being operated and also to fully participate in the Eurodac system being developed at EU level.