Biometric data from non-EU travellers
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A set of new measures including biometric data from non-EU travellers are
being proposed these days by the European Commission (EC). The proposals,
drafted by Franco Frattini, the European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom
and Security, are being put forward by the EC, arguing that the cross-border
policy has to be revised to face the new challenges related to terrorism,
organised crime and illegal migration.
The package proposes the creation of an entry/exit register of non-European
visitors to the EU bloc that will record the dates of entry and exit of each
non-EU individual admitted to the Schengen visa-free area using biometric
identifiers. In cases when a person’s visa has expired, an alert can be
issued to all national authorities.
A second measure would be the introduction of a European Border Surveillance
System that will use satellites and unmanned aircraft to check on the non-UE
travellers on a short-stay visa and to track the movements of suspected
illegal migrants. The system is already under construction and may be
operational by 2012.
The proposals include the setting up of a system requiring travellers from
countries with a visa requirement to provide biometric data at European
consulates in their country. Those arriving from countries that are not
required visas, such as the United States, will have to submit fingerprints
and a digitalized facial image. The EC will encourage member states to
introduce “automated border-crossing checks” which will include new
biometric technologies such as eye scanners.
The system should, however, allow EU citizens and “low risk” frequent
travellers from outside the bloc to pass through automated checkpoints
granting them a status of “registered traveller” being thus able to have
their biometric travel documents scanned and checked by machines.
Non-Europeans could obtain the fast-track status on condition they have not
previously overstayed their visas, have enough funds to pay for their stay
in Europe and have a biometric passport. All non-European individuals will
have to make an electronic application before travelling to the Schengen
area, allowing them to be checked against anti-terror databases in advance.
The proposals also suggest a better use of Frontex, the EU’s border control
agency, especially by means of “intensified” joint operations between member
states at sea borders.
Privacy advocates, lawmakers and even police representatives criticise the
proposals considering the EU is piling up databases without an overall
strategy or a clear vision and believing the EC is only trying to copy the
United States in their practice to scan fingerprints and pictures of
travellers. “It’s boys with toys. They want to have the toys the Americans
have,” said Gus Hosein from Privacy International.
“It is not good to have a proliferation of databases without a clear vision
(…) The link between them is unclear and leads to gaps” also said Jan
Velleman, a spokesman for Eurocop, a European police union.
Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments: “Let us be clear about the effect
of these three proposals. Everyone – citizens and visitors – travelling in
and out of the EU is going placed under surveillance, have to get permission
to enter and checked against national watch-lists whose scope is unknown,
with data transferred to unspecified agencies in the EU and outside and
records of movements held for years.”
According to Meryem Marzouki, EDRI board member: “These plans add a
new wall to the European Fortress, as they consider any migrant as a
potential criminal. This entry/exit system will lead to increased
surveillance and social control at national level as soon as an alert
will be issued after visa expiration without exit. Europe is on its
way towards a totalitarian society. As long as there is not adequate
data protection under third pillar, there would be no limit to such
Roscam Abbing from the Commission said that according to the reaction of the
EU lawmakers and governments, a legislative proposal will follow but did not
make any statements on when the systems would come into force and refrained
from commenting upon criticisms to the lack of EU strategy in dealing with
It is not clear whether Britain, Ireland and Cyprus which are not members of
Schengen area, will adopt the program. All proposed measures could then
enter into force between 2012 and 2015.
Proposed shake up of EU security includes call for fingerprinting all
EU plans to require biometrics of all non-European visitors (10.02.2008)
New EU fingerprint scheme fans privacy concerns (10.02.2008)
Brussels to tighten EU external borders (6.02.2008)
EU to announce fingerprinting for all visitors (12.02.2008)