Intensified surveillance at EU borders: EURODAC reform needs a radical policy shift

In an open letter addressed to the European Parliament Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, 33 organisations protecting the rights of people on the move, children and digital rights including European Digital Rights (EDRi) urge policymakers to radically change the direction of the EURODAC reform – the European Union (EU) database storing asylum seekers’ and migrants’ personal data - in order to respect fundamental rights and international law. 

By EDRi · September 8, 2021

If adopted, the legislative proposal would vastly expand the database, extending far beyond its original purpose and leading to unaccountable and exponential surveillance at the EU’s borders. EURODAC would cover a greater number of persons, data categories, and store data for a longer period of time. People on the move, including children from the age of 6, would have their fingerprints and facial images captured, stored and cross-checked with several police and migration control databases. This process would effectively label people as criminals by default, undermining rights to dignity, privacy and data protection, the rights of the child, and the principles of necessity and proportionality. 

 

In terms of the policy process, the signatories express their deep regret that no impact assessment has been carried out. This gravely undermines transparency and due process and is completely incompatible with democratic processes. In addition, little was done to involve and consult relevant stakeholders and notably civil society organisations. Lastly, the automatic linkage of EURODAC to the interoperability framework of EU information systems limits the possibility to hold an open debate on the appropriate purpose of the database and on its interconnections with the other legislative files of the Migration Package. 

This is why the undersigned organisations call for:

  • a temporary delay to the legislative process to give due time for significant consideration of the fundamental rights implications of the EURODAC reform; 
  • the completion and publication of an impact assessment;
  • meaningful consultation with civil society working on the fundamental rights of migrants, children, data protection and digital rights;

People on the move deserve the same level of protection as anyone else and the EU should not take advantage of their vulnerable situation to subject them to mass surveillance and undignified treatment. 

Background 

The EURODAC database was introduced in 2003 alongside the Dublin Regulation to support the application of its allocation mechanism by identifying which Member State was responsible for examining a person’s asylum claim. After a proposed revision in 2016, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached a political agreement in 2018 during the secret negotiations (called trilogues) to transform the database into a multi-purpose instrument serving EU policies on asylum, resettlement and irregular migration. 

However, the compromise text was never formally adopted because of a political deadlock on the other migration and asylum files that formed the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). In 2020, the European Commission tried to find a way out by releasing a new series of legislative proposals called “a New Pact on Migration and Asylum”. As part of this package, the proposal to reform EURODAC bases itself on the 2018 political agreement. 

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