Wednesday 16 October 2019

College orders fingerprint scans for non-EU students

Enda Leahy

Griffith College is to introduce fingerprint readers to enforce classroom attendance of students from outside Europe.

The college says the measure will "assist" non-EU students with staying on the right side of immigration law and rejects claims that the measure is invasive.

Fingerprinting has been introduced in a number of secondary schools already, but it is the first time the technology has been used to enforce attendance of immigrants in private colleges.

Under the new scheme, which begins next term, students from outside the EU must provide a scan for the device, in order to enroll and attend classes. The Dublin college has spent the last few weeks fingerprinting overseas students.

By law, non-EU students who obtain visas to study must attend at least 80 per cent of classes in order to remain within the conditions of their student visas. Immigration gardai have found a number of failures and abuses in the system however.

Griffith, a successful private college, say the new biometric identification system is an attempt to distance themselves from more dubious colleges, some of which have been exposed as "brass-plate" schools, which are set up to provide foreign students with false documents for visa applications.

Last December, the director of a private third-level college in Dublin was arrested as part of Operation Feather, while another director of a private college was arrested last April and his school closed down.

"This system has been brought in to assist our non-EU students by recording attendance on campus as part of their visa requirements as set out by the Garda National Immigration Bureau," said Diarmuid Hegarty, president of Griffith College.

"It has been implemented in colleges across the United Kingdom and Europe. Fortunately Griffith College international students are genuine students with excellent attendance rates."

"We welcome this opportunity for their high level of commitment to their studies to be vindicated for the benefit of the Irish Immigration authorities," said Mr Hegarty.

A spokesman for the college added that there were three attendance checks required of all international students -- the traditional manual roll call, a magnetic swipe student card, and now the fingerprint scanners.

But the system has come under fire from students. It is the subject of an editorial in the latest edition of Griffiti, the college's student magazine, which quoted the assistant information commissioner Tony Delaney asking schools "whether they have tried less invasive systems".

Griffith College was keen to point out that the "fingerprinting" in use is in fact "five-point finger identification" and its implementation does not mean that the school maintains a database of full fingerprint scans.

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