Swiss approve biometric passports

18th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Swiss voters Sunday narrowly approve a referendum requiring fingerprints on passports.

GENEVA - Swiss voters Sunday narrowly approved a referendum requiring biometric passports to comply with the Europe's borderless Schengen zone which Switzerland joined in December.

Official results showed that 50.14 percent of votes cast were in favour of the referendum, just 5,504 more votes than those opposed to the biometric passports.

While Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, it has joined the now 25-nation Schengen zone which eliminates border identity controls for travel among the member states on the European continent.

The Schengen accords call for member states to institute biometric passports which, besides a photograph, include the passport holder's fingerprints as well as other security elements to prevent counterfeiting.

Swiss leftist parties called for a referendum because they opposed a clause in the biometric passport law that would add the passport details to a central general file, which is not required by Schengen.

For the left, this law may lead to the possible abuse of personal data and a "Big Brother" state.

But those in favour argued that biometric passports, required by more countries including the United States, would give travellers better security guarantees.

Switzerland has until 1 March 2010 to institute the biometric passport.

AFP / Expatica

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