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Washington ends special registration programme

December 02, 2003 - The Daily Dawn News Paper

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Dec 1: The US Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that it was ending a programme begun after the Sept 11 terror attacks that required male visitors from mainly 25 Muslim states to register with the government while in the United States.

The department said that a new programme called US-VISIT will replace the controversial National Security Entry Exit Registration System, known as NSEERS from Jan 5.

Under the old programme visitors from almost all large Muslim nations were required to reregister after 30 days and again when they completed a year of stay in the United States

The new system will focus on individuals instead of on "broad categories" of people, the Department of Homeland Security announced. The department, however, warned that those who were required to register under the old system while in the United States will still have to register each time they enter or leave the country.

Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary for border and transportation security, said NSEERS could be used again if there was another terrorist attack linked to a foreign country.

Mr Hutchinson said the decision to "terminate" the programme, which administration officials had hinted at last week, was not influenced by the harsh criticism by advocacy groups and civil rights organizations.

NSEERS required men and boys from 25 countries to be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed at US immigration offices. A total 83,519 people complied and many were deported, usually for overstaying visas.

The programme, which ends on Tuesday, prompted angry protests, with critics saying it unfairly targeted innocent people. Hussein Ibish, spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the change would bring "a much fairer and more effective system of immigration."

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