Sweden eyes fingerprint scanning to stop fraud

Sweden needs to beef up its border security with fingerprint scanning to stop passport fraud, a government inquiry has argued as the country grapples with unprecedented levels of immigration.

Sweden eyes fingerprint scanning to stop fraud
Some passengers are already checked at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: TT

The inquiry proposed fingerprint scans for all nationalities entering Sweden from outside the passport-free Schengen Area in a move that pre-empts the European Union, which has yet to make such screenings mandatory.

"I think that is the only way to get at the lookalike problem, when you use a passport belonging to someone who looks like you," Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told news agency TT.

Sweden has seen immigration levels soar in the wake of the Syrian conflict and expects a record 90,000 asylum seekers to arrive in Sweden in 2015.

Sweden is second only to France in Europe in cases of "lookalike abuse", with around 950 such frauds reported every year, the inquiry said.

Passport fraudsters frequently board a flight using either someone else's passport or a fake Swedish passport, and destroy the document while en route and claim refugee status once they arrive, the inquiry said.

The Migration Board estimates that 30 percent of asylum seekers in Sweden arrive by plane, with the rest coming by boat or ground transport.

"Through criminal networks that are established in both Sweden and other countries, channels are already in place that are able to supply migrants with passports," Ebba Sverne Arvill, who led the inquiry on behalf of the police, said in a statement.

Among travellers entering Sweden from non-Schengen countries with either fake or lookalike passports, 77 percent had come from Turkey, a frequent transit point for refugees from Syria and Iraq.

The rush of refugees into Europe comes as the number of people driven from their homes by conflict and crisis topped 50 million, a first since the Second World War, according to recent figures from the UN's refugee agency.

Sweden has recently been in the spotlight over its checks on passengers travelling to the nordic Nation after it emerged that the country had failed to introduce a digital database to help airlines share passenger lists with police, despite EU regulations dating back to 2004, which call for the automatic transfer of customer information.

The rapid increase in asylum seekers is seen as one of the main factors behind the rise of the extreme right, with the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats becoming the third-largest party in elections in September.