Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

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.

Analysis

Russia's Syria tactics imperil EU-Turkey migrant plan

Events in Syria pose questions if the EU-Turkey migrant plan is still relevant. They show the need for solidarity. But there’s little of that and few options on how to stop Turkey's “nightmare.”

EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors

A two-year scheme to send asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU states fell short of its potential, say EU auditors. Some 35,000 were helped - but auditors say 445,000 in Greece alone could have also potentially benefited.

Erdogan: refugees will enter Europe unless EU does more

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will "open the doors" for refugees and migrants to enter Europe unless it does more to help. The EU says it won't help Turkey create a so-called "safe zone" in north-east Syria.

Greek migrant hotspot now EU's 'worst rights issue'

The 14,000 migrants trapped on the Greek island of Lesbos has been described as "the single most worrying fundamental rights issue that we are confronting anywhere in the European Union" by the head of the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.

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Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

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