National Immigration Authority to be launched today
A newly-created National Immigration Authority - pulling together some 16 separate government bodies dealing with immigration - will officially open its doors Tuesday, ending more than ten years of government deliberations on the matter of legal and illegal immigrants entering the country, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit announced at a press conference Monday.
"I believe that this will greatly improve the government's control of its borders," Sheetrit told The Jerusalem Post following the announcement. "All those who are now working independently to facilitate immigration will finally be brought together under one roof."
A spokesman for the minister said that Population Registry Director Yaakov Ganot had already been appointed to run the new authority.
"A year ago, when Sheetrit took office, he made it his goal to see this authority come to life," explained the spokesman. "Until now there were many bodies responsible for the country's various borders. If someone was denied entry at the Allenby Bridge border crossing, for example, he or she could simply board a plane and fly in via Ben-Gurion Airport passport control. There was no shared information or correlation between the two."
He said that there had been several cases of individuals cheating the system in this way.
Under the new arrangement, however, the Interior Ministry, the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces, including those stationed across the green line, will be able to access each other's information and immediately identify illegals and visitors via a national computer grid.
Other offices will also share their information and contribute to the authority's operations, including the Ministries of Internal Security, Justice, Labor, Trade and Industry, Housing and Construction and Absorption, as well as the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Among the long-term plans of the National Immigration Authority, said the minister's spokesman, is the launch of a biometric identification system to keep track of all visitors and migrants entering the country, as well as the movements of Israeli citizens.
In recent years, many countries - including the US, UK and even Iran - have initiated a biometric system, which includes passports with fingerprint or iris recognition designed to combat counterfeit or fraudulent identification papers.
In a recent interview with the Post, head of the Immigration Police Unit Lt.-Cmdr Efi Mor said that most illegal immigrants entered the country through legal channels, obtaining a B2 Visa at the airport or border crossings and then just staying on even after their visa has expired.
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