Wednesday

27th Oct 2021

EU data row over police access to asylum seekers' fingerprints

  • Police could have access to asylum seekers' fingerprints under new EU proposals (Photo: EU's attempts)

A row between the European Commission and the EU's data privacy chief has broken out over plans to give police access to biometric data from the fingerprints of asylum seekers.

In a bluntly worded 20-page report published Wednesday (5 September), Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor, accused the EU executive of failing to provide sufficient evidence and justification, stating that the commission should prepare a fresh impact assessment "in which solid evidence and reliable statistics are provided and which includes a fundamental rights assessment."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The controversy is over the role of EURODAC, the EU-wide fingerprint database, which forms part of the EU's asylum system.

Under the current regime all refugees seeking political asylum in an EU country must provide fingerprints for the system which also contains biometric fingerprint information taken from illegal immigrants. Critics argue that the system, which covers asylum seekers as young as 14, breaches the EU's Fundamental Rights charter.

The database was originally created to prevent multiple claims for asylum being lodged in different member states with no country taking responsibility for the application. Each set of fingerprint data can be compared with fingerprint data already stored in EURODAC to see if an asylum seeker has previously lodged an asylum claim in one or more other member states or has entered EU territory.

Now the commission wants to widen the scope of the legislation, allowing national law enforcement authorities and the European police service Europol to access the EURODAC central database for the purposes of prevention, detection and investigation of terrorist offences and other serious criminal offences.

On publishing the proposals in May, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Mälmstrom defended the changes insisting that they would operate only under "very limited and specific circumstances" for serious crimes such as murder and terrorism, adding that "it will only be possible to make searches on a hit/no hit basis and a EURODAC check can only be made if prior searches in national or member states' databases do not yield results."

But in a press statement accompanying his report, Hustinx, who acts as advisor to the EU institutions on data privacy but does not have blocking powers, asserted that the commission proposal would "intrude upon the privacy of individuals and risk stigmatising them" adding that the EU executive had "simply not provided sufficient reason why asylum seekers should be singled out for such treatment."

Malmström's spokesman Michele Cercone played down the disagreement, insisting that his commission "has shown every intention to include all possible safeguards including data protection and privacy.”

“We welcome the report of the EDPS and will consider it thoroughly in the context of the pending negotiations with Council and the European Parliament,” he added.

Greece to deport undocumented migrants

Authorities in Greece rounded up 6,030 undocumented migrants in Athens over the weekend and arrested 1,525 for not meeting the legal conditions for residence.

Security trumps privacy, EU court says

Ensuring protection against the fraudulent use of passports outweighs personal privacy concerns about mandatory fingerprinting, the European Union's top court said Thursday.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  2. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  3. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers
  4. No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says
  5. Nine countries oppose EU gas market reform
  6. EU-UK impasse on top court in post-Brexit customs talks
  7. Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors
  8. EU banks play 'major role' in deforestation, report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us