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UK unprepared for EU biometric entry requirements, Lords committee warns Home Secretary

Damning list of conclusions and recommendations reveals lack of plan and communication
UK unprepared for EU biometric entry requirements, Lords committee warns Home Secretary

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has been admonished in a letter from the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee where they warn her that the country appears unready for the upcoming EU biometric entry system and pre-arrival authorization requirements.

The letter written by Baroness Sally Hamwee, chair of the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee, processes the dire warnings presented to the committee by travel chiefs in early November.

“The Justice and Home Affairs Committee is very concerned indeed about the upcoming launch of two new EU border management systems,” writes Baroness Hamwee, “They could have serious consequences in the UK and for the rights and liberties of UK citizens, and the UK appears to be unprepared. Although the two systems are due to launch next year, several ethical, legal and logistical challenges remain unaddressed.”

The EU is implementing a new Entry/Exit System which will require biometric enrollment – facial and fingerprint – for non-EU citizens (i.e. post-Brexit British nationals) and an Electronic System for Travel Authorization-like pre-authorization, the European Travel Information and Authorization System. Checks are made against the databases held by Interpol and EU police.

While the EES has been delayed again and is now expected in late summer 2022, even this uncertainty makes provision more difficult for the travel sector.

“We were disappointed by your written response to us of 15 September 2021,” Hamwee states. “Some questions were unanswered, and it appeared to put the onus on the European Union, Member States, and transport operators in addressing serious matters that will affect UK citizens. In oral evidence, you stated that the EES is ‘a Commission matter on implementation.’

“Given the potential disruption and the importance of the systems under discussion, we consider that the UK should take urgent steps to engage with the Commission, support the operators and develop and consult on plans to raise the public’s awareness of the new arrangements.”

The committee chair also raises the issue that the British public’s applications to enter the EU will be assessed by algorithms which could involve discrimination. She criticizes the lack of a plan for re-application if someone is refused entry.

Recommended for consideration are a series of steps, including setting up a system for sharing government-held biometric data with European partners, to remove the need for separate enrollment.

The committee provides conclusions to their investigations such as “As it stands, continuous EES checks are expected to permanently slow the flow of UK vehicles and passengers to and from the EU” and “Raising awareness of these systems is crucial and will require more than updating Travel Advice” as well as recommendations such as “The Government should engage with relevant European authorities in relation to ETIAS security checks. It should secure agreement that it will be notified when a UK citizen is assessed by ETIAS as representing a security risk and obtain guarantees against any attempt by another non-EU government to abuse ETIAS to undermine the rights and liberties of UK citizens.”

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