The Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA) has recommended multimodal biometric screening and electronic identity cards as potential solutions to terrorism concerns raised by refugee movements in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The Plan provides options for decision makers that include providing biometrics equipment to relief agencies, deploying a state of the art mobile biometrics capability in Europe and using existing channels to bolster mobile biometric capabilities for US allies.
"Terrorist organizations are interested in subverting traditional methods of screening and vetting which rely on identity documents, fingerprints, and biographical data,” said Michael Dougherty, the SIBA Chief Executive Officer.
“Identity documents of course have a role to play in vetting refugees and asylum-seekers, but there are so many fraudulent Syrian passports and national IDs in circulation right now, those documents cannot be considered reliable in establishing a person's identity. This, combined with the lack of background information on many displaced persons who are fleeing conflict and persecution, has justifiably raised security alarms relative to the movement of Syrian refugees.”
Dougherty also pointed to numerous reports that there is a growing cottage industry for forged documents, and that ISIS itself is using passport stock to obtain false identities for operatives traveling to the West to stage terror attacks.
"The ability of ISIS and other groups to supply operatives with false identification credentials represents a serious threat to the security of civilian populations. However, there are actions that governments can take to mitigate some of these threats."
Governments should ensure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relief agencies that make first contact with those seeking refugee status have the funding and equipment necessary to capture facial images and iris scans in addition to fingerprints, says SIBA.
On the biometrics capability in Europe, the organisation says that a lack of adequate identity management tools on the ground for local agencies in Europe was recently evidenced when Belgian police apprehended one of the gunmen who took part in the Paris attacks and released him because they were unable to make a positive identification after checking his ID card.
“To help counter the problem, EU Member States should equip both national and local law enforcement agencies with multi-modal biometric capture devices for use with refugee populations. EU partners should work together to ensure that the data captured on foreign nationals in the Schengen Area can be matched to authoritative databases”
The group also recommends that the United States, through a number of channels and programs, supply nations with mobile biometric capabilities. These channels include the Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales program for nations such as Greece and Slovenia, that are experiencing significant Syrian refugee traffic but likely do not have adequate resources to rapidly procure the needed biometrics tools and resources.
Finally, SIBA recommends that officials should consider issuing a standard document to potential refugees to replace Syrian identity documents, noting that smart cards featuring an integrated circuit that contains a person's multimodal biometrics are readily available and variations on such cards have been used by the UN in other areas.