- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - The Australian and U.S. governments signed an information-sharing agreement Wednesday to bolster each country’s ability to confirm identities of foreign travelers.

The agreement for the sharing of visa and immigration information, which was signed at Parliament House, will enable two-way information sharing between the countries, the Australian government said in a statement.

The agreement comes as Australia tightens its border security to prevent Australian jihadists from joining Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. A Sydney man slipped out of the country using his brother’s passport this month, but was detained on arrival in the United Arab Emirates and deported. A notorious terrorist left Sydney in a similar security breach in December last year.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the agreement comes at a time when strengthening national border control through the use of technology has never been more important for Australia.

“Australia values highly the information exchanges with the United States and our international partners and recognizes the potential of this agreement to better protect citizens of both countries,” Bishop said in a statement.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the agreement would enable the exchange of appropriate immigration information in accordance with the countries’ respective privacy and legislative provisions, increasing volumes and response times and facilitating timely immigration-related decisions.

“Increased information sharing empowers border officers through more informed decision-making, whether supporting a client’s claimed identity or providing conflicting identity information,” Morrison said.

“As both countries work to protect our residents from emerging global threats, greater cooperation through the exchange of information will strengthen our ability to tackle cross-border issues,” he added.

Australia and the United States will ask United Nations member countries next month to cooperate in preventing militants from traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight.

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