Can biometrics help with Europe’s migrant problem?
25 June 2015 09:36 GMT

The European Union’s plans to use biometrics to identify a flood of migrants arriving in the continent are raising questions over how much “proportionate coercion” will be deemed acceptable in gathering fingerprint data.

EU leaders are meeting on Thursday for a conference that’s expected to result in authorities in Greece, Italy and Spain being handed extra powers to detain and identify migrants who arrive from the Mediterranean.

Draft docs published by Statewatch this week state there will be “structured border zones and facilities in the frontline Member States, with the active support of Member States' experts and of EASO, Frontex and Europol to ensure the swift identification, registration and fingerprinting of migrants (‘hotspots’)”.

Frontex is the European border management agency, while EASO implements the Common European Asylum System. The number of migrants that have entered Europe this year has exceeded 100,000.

The prospect of “hotspots” where migrants are identified draws attention to prior leaks of EU documents by the watchdog organisation which focused on how the fingerprint data will be obtained.

In May, Statewatch published an alleged leak of EU documents which stated: “If the data-subject still refuses to cooperate it is suggested that officials trained in the ‘proportionate use of coercion’ may apply the minimum level of coercion required, while ensuring respect of the dignity and physical integrity of the data-subject..”

Under the EURODAC system, a continent-wide biometric database, participating states must take the fingerprints of each asylum seeker over the age of 14. If EURODAC shows that the fingerprints have already been recorded, the asylum seeker might be sent back to the country where his/her fingerprints were originally taken.