UN agencies and civil society groups warn EU against coercive collection of children’s biometrics
A group of UN agencies and civil society organizations have published a joint statement against the use of coercion to collect fingerprints and facial images from children, which would be allowed by proposals under consideration as part of the reformed Common European Asylum System.
The European Commission, Council, and Parliament are considering EURODAC proposals to add identification of “irregularly staying third country nationals” to the purpose of the database of asylum applicants, as well as to lower the mandatory registration age from 14 to six years. The statement expresses concern that European Institutions are actively considering allowing coercion by national authorities collecting biometrics, and says that claims that the collection is necessary for the safety of children being coerced is misguided.
“The identification and registration of children contributes to their protection within and across borders,” the statement says. “This must be done in a child-sensitive and child protective manner and the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in such matters, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). We agree with the opinion of the European Fundamental Rights Agency, and guidance from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which say that collecting and using children’s data can only be justified if it pursues a clear child protection objective.”
The organizations urge those working with children at EU borders to employ appropriate professionals to explain children’s rights and procedures in a way they can understand, and quickly appoint trained guardians to unaccompanied children to ensure fingerprint collection is carried out in compliance with CRC Article 3.
The statement is undersigned by more than 20 organizations including the UNHCR, UNICEF, OHCHR Regional Office for Europe, IOM, Save the Children, World Vision, and the International Commission of Jurists.