Saudi Arabia Uses Biometric Identification on Pilgrim Visitors

Saudi Arabia Uses Biometric Identification on Pilgrim VisitorsSaudi Arabia’s biometric border security system is now operational. All adult and adolescent individuals entering the Kingdom now must have their fingerprints scanned for identification in an ambitious project targeting points of entry over land, sea, and air.

The system has been deployed for the pilgrimage season as part of a larger securitization effort. Announced last fall, the measure met with some controversy as tour operators in Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt signalled their discomfort with the system, with the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents going so far as to suspend its visas for the Umrah pilgrimage in protest.

Nevertheless, the Saudi government appears to be a keen adopter of biometric technology. It has set up an Automated Central System for the collection and storage of its own citizens’ biometric data, and has also been looking to other applications of the technology, such as attendance tracking systems for the country’s schools.

In its use on pilgrims, the system is aimed at helping government authorities to develop individuals entering the country with criminal records, and to ensure that the pilgrims leave the country after the pilgrimage season ends. Despite its controversy, the system quickly appears to be settling in as the new normal for the Kingdom’s border security.

Source: Arab News

September 9, 2015 – by Alex Perala