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Asylum seekers sanding off fingertips: report

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14:27 CET+01:00

Many Eritrean and Somalian refugees are taking extreme measures to destroy their fingerprints to avoid being identified and returned to the first country they entered in Europe.

"The most common method is to grind the fingertips down, for example by using sandpaper. They can also easily be worn down on a rough wall of a house," Roger Boxler, head of the refugee reception center at Kreuzlingen, told newspaper Tages Anzeiger.

The fingertips take approximately two to three weeks to re-generate. During this time, the refugees are kept in reception centres, which are becoming overcrowded as a result of the high volume of traffic.

Once the fingertips have repaired sufficiently, the fingerprinting process is repeated, enabling the authorities to track if, when and where the individual was previously admitted to the asylum system.

While no official figures are available, reception centres across Switzerland estimate that there are some 200 migrants per year arriving with "polished fingertips", Tages Anzeiger reported.

Large numbers of asylum seekers arrive every month in places such as Italy or Greece. Feeling their futures might be more secure elsewhere, the migrants often decide to try their luck with more hospitable countries such as Switzerland and Germany, the newspaper said.

But their efforts are hampered by the so-called Dublin Regulation, which prevents asylum seekers from submitting applications to multiple member states across the EU as well as in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

This means that asylum seekers typically use up their one application when they arrive in the first country.

Fingerprints are taken at first registration and recorded in a database so that individuals travelling later without papers can be traced to see if and where they have entered the asylum system previously.

As a result, migrants desperate for a better life are removing their fingerprints in the hopes of getting a second bite at the cherry.

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