Sunday

24th Jun 2018

EU to create world's biggest bio-data pool

The EU bloc has taken the final step towards having the world's largest biometric database with 70 million sets of fingerprints, designed to boost border security by allowing EU states to share data on short-stay visas and visa applications from non-EU citizens who wish to enter the Schengen free-travel zone.

On Tuesday (12 June), EU interior ministers gave their backing to the so-called visa information system (VIS), which stores fingerprints and photos of people applying or holding a Schengen visa, and accessed by EU states participating in the Schengen free-travel zone as well as by the European police office, Europol.

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The new system will "offer a new practical tool both for consulates and border checkpoints," to stop and apprehend criminals or terrorists at the bloc's external borders, EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini said, according to AP.

He added that the aim is to make the visa information system operational by spring 2009.

Currently, people from over one hundred countries are required to have a visa issued by an EU state before they enter the Schengen borderless area.

The newly-born database is designed to beef up border security and prevent what is known as visa shopping - when an applicant who is refused a visa by one Schengen country applies to others.

Lot of words, no deeds

This sense of cooperation all but disappeared however when it came to the issue of immigration.

EU state Malta had called for a burden-sharing and solidarity system regarding illegal immigrants.

The small island, with 400,000 inhabitants, has been overwhelmed by migrants crossing over from North Africa to Europe with some 7,000 people being picked up in waters off its coast in the last five years.

"It is only fair those immigrants who are saved are distributed on a rotational basis between the 27 EU member states", the Maltese interior minister Tonio Borg was cited as saying by AFP.

Mr Borg suggested that "temporarily those immigrants should go to the nearest European state until they are transferred to the designated country of destination" - the country of destination would be decided according to its size and population.

But Mr Borg's ambitious call met with strong opposition from his colleagues, with the French minister for immigration and national identity, Brice Hortefeux, saying "it seems very difficult. I do not see, technically, how we could do that".

Similar worries have been raised by the European Commission and the German EU presidency.

"I do not see how we can share out illegal migrants. It would give a bad signal to say - you can come, we will save you, we will distribute you among ourselves", commissioner Frattini's spokesperson said, according to the International Herald Tribune, hinting a proposal could act as a magnet for migrants.

German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said there would be a "long road" before an agreement is reached.

Investigation

UK unlawfully copying data from EU police system

The British government is abusing EU travel security systems, making and using illegal copies of outdated information, and putting innocent people at risk of being red-flagged.

GDPR - a global 'gold standard'?

The new EU privacy rules are touted as a global 'gold standard' - but Mexico's former data commissioner warns some nations are far from ready.

New GDPR enforcer says complaints imminent

The European Data Protection Board is a new EU body tasked with enforcing the EU's privacy laws with powers to impose massive fines. Its head Andrea Jelinek told reporters complaints against companies are expected to be immediate.

Feature

EU and Turkey fight for 'lost generation'

Some 300,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey are not enrolled in classes. Fears they may end up in sweatshops or forced to beg have triggered efforts by the EU, Unicef, and the Turkish government to keep them in school.

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