Wednesday

31st Aug 2016

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."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EuridThe 2016 .eu Web Awards is a Chance to Make Dreams Come True so Vote Today !
  2. Nordic CouncilNordic-Baltic Co-operation Vital in Turbulent Times
  3. GoogleBrussels: Home of Beer, Fries, Chocolate and Google’s Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  4. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students to China for ICT Training
  5. EFASpain is Not a Democratic State. EFA Expresses Solidarity to A. Otegi and EH Bildu
  6. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  7. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  8. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  9. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Applies Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  10. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  11. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  12. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER

Latest News

  1. Verheugen did not think VW cheating was morally possible
  2. Greece and EU to tackle labour market reform
  3. EU's €13bn tax decision angers Ireland, US, and Apple
  4. EU and US continue trade talks despite French criticism
  5. UK cannot have and eat EU cake
  6. Apple ordered to repay a record €13 billion to Ireland
  7. End in sight for EU-Poland dispute, says deputy PM
  8. Turkey pledges loyalty to EU and Nato