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Senegal’s biometric database easing deportation of its nationals from EU territory

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A national biometric database system in Senegal is now helping European Union (EU) member states to effect forced removals of the West African country’s undesired citizens from EU space, Statewatch reports, citing a restricted European Commission document which it reviewed.

This system, the Commission said, will lead to what it called a “consolidated” biometric identification process for those who face deportations, according to the report destined for the European Council.

Statewatch said Senegal was placed 16th out of 39 third countries whose level of cooperation with EU return and readmission procedures was assessed by the Commission. The document seen by Statewatch also details some of the challenges faced by EU member states when trying to enforce deportation orders.

About 8,010 Senegalese nationals were ordered to leave the EU in 2019, and eight member states who issued the removal orders confirmed they had a satisfactory response from authorities in Senegal about confirming the identities of those earmarked for deportation, Statewatch notes. For other eight members who contacted Senegal for readmission matters, the results were either “average or poor,” the report adds.

The Senegal biometric national database project is one of a couple in Africa, funded by the EU Trust Fund for Stability and Addressing Root Causes of Irregular Migration and Displaced Persons in Africa – a move some have described as controversial in the past.

A report by Privacy International which Statewatch quotes indicates that the official purpose of the EU’s funding of the Senegal biometric project is to help ensure respect for the rights of individuals by simplifying the way they get officially identified. But it raises questions about whether a centralized biometric database is really needed to identify individuals, if not for deportation purposes, a priority Statewatch says is confirmed by the report.

Privacy International has also previously raised concerns about the EU Trust Fund and the biometric projects its backs.

The biometric database system is the first phase of a plan that also involves the putting in place of a Return Case Management System (RCMS), which is already being used by the UE in countries such as Armenia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with that of Afghanistan still in the works, per the restricted European Commission report.

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