June 4, 2012 -
On May 30, the European Commission proposed that law enforcement officers of European Union member states be given access to Eurodac, a biometric database that holds the data of asylum seekers. The database, setup in 2003, holds fingerprint data of millions of refugee claimants in the effort to prevent these asylum seekers from simultaneous claims in member states.
In 2009, a similar proposal was proposed by the European Commission but was opposed by civil society groups. It was feared that the proposal would stigmatize those who have been given asylum and would jeopardize the presumption of innocence in criminal cases.
Experts on immigration, criminal and refugee issues state that the latest proposal essentially transforms all asylum seekers into future criminal suspects simply because their biometric data is on file. Furthermore, they increase their chances of being prosecuted for the simple fault that they previously tried to seek shelter in another member state.
The new proposal was only a slight deviation from the previous one in the sense that access to the Eurodac would be solely for fingerprint verification purposes. It would only be a hit or no hit result which means that local authorities would have to conduct a deeper investigation in order to get more personal details on a suspect.
Although the 2009 proposal stated that it would not share any kind of information with non-member states, a provision for exemption was made to allow EU members to transmit data to Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. This provision was removed in the 2012 proposal.
Members of the European Union understand that giving their law enforcement agencies access to Eurodac would only be as a means to compare fingerprints in specific cases. It is also seen as a necessary tool in the prevention, detection or investigation of terrorist offences along with the preservation of the EU’s security.
Should the EU’s biometric refugee database be shared with police forces?