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28th Feb 2021

Balkan countries want access to EU asylum database

  • Western Balkan nations want access to the fingerprint details of asylum seekers and migrants. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Western Balkan nations are pushing to get access to the EU's vast asylum database as part of a broader effort to stem the migrant flows.

"Third countries said they want access to the EU databases. We said we would look into what is possible," an European commission spokesperson told this website on Thursday (18 February).

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The demand to get access to the asylum database Eurodac was made at a dinner in Brussels on Wednesday. The move would possibly grant Balkan police access to a database that contains the fingerprint details of a large archive of asylum seekers and migrants.

Launched in 2003, the database is used by asylum authorities to crack down on people not entitled to be in a territory. It was updated last year to allow police access. The EU's police agency Europol can also probe the database.

But the move to possibly grant non-EU states access represents a big departure. The commission had previously stated that "no data received from Eurodac may be shared with third countries."

The fear is that information on legitimate asylum seekers fleeing persecution could somehow be leaked back to the oppressing government, possibly placing that individual's family or friends at risk of harm.

Organised at the request of the Slovenians in the margins of conference on Syria in London earlier this month, the dinner was hosted by EU Council chief Donald Tusk. At the table were the presidents of Macedonia and Serbia. The prime ministers of Slovenia and Croatia also attended.

Balkans are seeking Eurodac access to better identify people should bottlenecks appear along the route after Austria announced a controversial decision to cap the number of asylum seekers.

"The meeting proved even more useful in light of the Austria's decisions," an EU source told this website.

"The countries in the region consider themselves as primarily transit countries and will not accept to become destination countries," noted the contact.

Meanwhile, EU leaders at a summit in Brussels postponed any decision making on migration until March as the UK's possible exit from the Union dominated talks.

The gathering of 28 heads of state in Brussels comes amid mounting uncertainity over the future of a Union that is being stretched by both issues.

Talks on how to best deal with all the people seeking international protection was instead reserved for a late evening dinner conversation as leaders preferred wrangling over British demands ahead of its In/Out referendum.

With around a half dozen EU summits dedicated to migration and little to show in terms of results, any expectations of breakthrough at the summit were never high.

Instead, hopes were placed on getting Ankara to step up its efforts to stem the flow of people to Greece as part of a larger €3 billion EU deal.

But those too were quashed when Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu cancelled his visit following a deadly explosion in the capital.

Pressure for a more rapid solution to bringing down in the numbers is instead coming from Austria, central EU states, and now the Western Balkan nations increasing the likelihood of a ring-fenced Greece.

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