Thursday 15 October 2009

Fingerprints, migrants, and police cooperation between EU member states

Often it is really hard to track member states' positions on crucial issues, like data protection or migration - but sometimes you can find some very interesting things.

In September, the Commission issued a Proposal for a Council Decision on
"requesting comparisons with EURODAC data by Member States' law enforcement authorities and Europol for law enforcement purposes"
This proposal - criticised already in June by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in a memorandum (PDF) - starts with the following assessment:
"Fingerprint data is especially useful information for law enforcement purposes, as it constitutes an important element in establishing the exact identity of a person. The usefulness of fingerprint databases in fighting crime is a fact that has been repeatedly acknowledged.

Fingerprint data of asylum seekers are collected and stored in the Member State in which the asylum application was filed, as well as in EURODAC.


However, while Member States successfully access asylum seekers fingerprints on a national level, it seems that access to asylum seekers fingerprint databases of other Member States is more problematic. The reason is that there is a structural information and verification gap since there is currently no single system that is accessible to law enforcement authorities which enables to determine the Member State that has information on an asylum seeker.
As a consequence of this assessment and following the analysis of what is already possible under EU law, the Commission proposes the following:
"The proposed action establishes the basis for the right of Member States as well as Europol to request a comparison of fingerprint data or a latent with EURODAC data. A successful comparison with result in a 'hit' reply from EURODAC, which will be acompanied by all data that is held in EURODAC regarding the fingerprint. Requests for supplementary information following a hit would not be regulated in the proposed Council Decision but rather be covered by existing instruments on the exchange of law enforcement information.

The scope of the proposal will be the fight against terrorist offences and serious criminal offences, such as trafficking in human beings and drugs.
Today, a summary of discussions of the Police Cooperation Working Party of the EU Council on 30 September 2009 has been published. And interestingly, the positions of the member states regarding the proposal have been recorded - and only Belgium seems to be totally against it:
"A vast majority of delegations (AT, CZ, DE, DK, EE, EL, FI, HU, IT, LV, LT, SL, PT, PL, UK, SE, MT, NL) welcomed the proposal and expressed their support to it.

BE indicated that, although significant progress had been made since the discussions on this issue in 2007 which resulted in Council Conclusions on access to Eurodac for law enforcement authorities, it continued to have serious concerns about this proposal.

Various delegations introduced a scrutiny reservation (AT, BE, CY, CZ, EE, EL, FI, IR, LT, MT, NL, PT, SE, SI, SK, UK), and/or a Parliamentary reservation (DK, MT, NL, PL, SE, UK).
The next meeting of the Working Party is set for Monday, 19 October 2009 - maybe someone in Brussels could try to follow up on this?!