ECRE published comments this week on the European Commission’s proposal to recast the Eurodac Regulation, which governs the establishment and operation of a database containing fingerprints of asylum seekers and irregular migrants. The comments raise a number of issues regarding the proposal, especially on the tension between several of the provisions and fundamental rights.

ECRE opposes the substantial expansion of the Eurodac database’s mandate foreseen in the Commission proposal, with the aim of assisting the control of irregular migration, secondary movements and the identification of irregular migrants for return purposes. In this regard, ECRE seriously questions the premise that the collection and storage of fingerprints and facial images of irregular migrants is a necessary tool to control irregular immigration and identify migrants.

In addition, this proposal comes as part of an increasing trend of digitalisation on the EU’s home affairs agenda, which in turn raises serious issues of data protection and compliance with human rights law. Such concerns are analysed in the document, with ECRE finding that the current proposal amounts to unnecessary and disproportionate interference with Articles 7 and 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, namely private and family life and the protection of personal data.

The Comments also highlight that the Commission proposal imposes a duty on Member States to create an obligation for asylum seekers and migrants to provide fingerprints and facial images, a development which has important implications for human rights. Children would be strongly impacted, as the minimum age for collecting fingerprints and images for Eurodac would be lowered from 14 to 6 years. ECRE recommends that the Regulation limit fingerprinting and facial images of children to cases where this is in the best interests of the child.

Furthermore, the proposal provides a legal basis for “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” sanctions when a person refuses to give fingerprints or a facial image for Eurodac purposes. ECRE argues that the Regulation should strictly specify and circumscribe the powers of EU Member States to sanction non-compliance, by laying down exhaustive sanctions that may be applied in such situations. These should be compatible with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Coercion should never be permissible for the aim of collecting fingerprints and facial images.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.