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European Union: Draft Agreement Allows Police Access to Fingerprints of Asylum Seekers

(May 8, 2013) On April 24, 2013, Members of the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of Europe reached a provisional agreement to allow national police authorities and Europol officers access to the fingerprints of individuals over the age of 14 who are caught illegally crossing the borders of the European Union seeking asylum. (European Parliament, MEPS Back Deal with Council on Police Access to Asylum Seekers’ Fingerprints, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT/NEWS (Apr. 24, 2013).)

The fingerprints of such individuals are stored in the EURODAC database, which was established in 2003 by the <?Dublin regulation. The primary purpose of this regulation is to assist EU Member States to determine which Member State is responsible for handling individual applications.(Council Regulation No. 2725/2000 of 11 December 2000 Concerning the Establishment of ‘Eurodac’ for the Comparison of Fingerprints for the Effective Application of the Dublin Convention (as amended), 2000 O.J. (L316) 1, EURLEX.)

In compliance with strict EU rules on personal data protection, the EP added certain safeguards to the provisional agreement. Thus, under the draft document, which is subject to a plenary vote, police would have access to fingerprints if two criteria are met:

(1) the purpose of the access is limited to fighting terrorism and other serious crimes; and

(2) the access is sought due to an “overriding public security concern.” (MEPS Back Deal with Council on Police Access to Asylum Seekers’ Fingerprints, supra.)

In addition, the provisional text provides that police access would not affect the further processing of the applications of persons who seek asylum. Police authorities also would not be able to transfer the personal data of asylum seekers to third countries or to international organizations. (Id.)