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European Union: Report on Managing the Common European Asylum System and Effectiveness of Biometric Database (EURODAC)

(Sept. 2, 2010) On August 3, 2010, the European Commission published the 2009 annual report on the performance and activities of EURODAC. EURODAC was established to compare fingerprints in the Common Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), in furtherance of the Dublin Convention of 2003. The Convention determines, based on certain criteria, which Member State is responsible for reviewing an asylum application submitted in its territory in order to avoid “forum shopping.” The Member State that meets the criteria is required to review the particular asylum request in line with its national law. (Council Regulation (EC) No. 2725/2000 Concerning the Establishment of “EURODAC” for the Comparison of Fingerprints for the Effective Application of the Dublin Convention, 2000 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION L 316, 1 (Dec. 15, 2000), available at

EURODAC stores the fingerprints of individuals over the age of 14 who enter the EU to seek asylum or who enter illegally and are arrested at the external borders of the EU. It consists of a Central Unit under the supervision and management of the European Commission and a system to transmit data on fingerprints electronically among the EU Member States. The fingerprints taken by the national authorities of an EU Member are compared with those forwarded by other EU Members and stored in EURODAC. If the fingerprints are already in the database, the asylum seeker can be sent back to the EU state where his/her fingerprints were initially taken. The procedure for taking fingerprints is compatible with the safeguards contained in the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The cost involved in maintaining and operating the Central Unit amounted to €1,221,183 (US$1,551,221) in 2009. EURODAC operates on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week. (Press Release, IP/10/1023, RAPID, EU's Biometric Database Continues to Ensure Effective Management of the Common European Asylum System (Aug. 3, 2010),

The 2009 report provides critical information regarding patterns of entry of asylum applicants and of those attempting to enter the external borders of the EU illegally. The data shows a significant decrease in the number of individuals arrested when illegally crossing the EU borders. On the other hand, the number of “multiple applications” for asylum – whereby the same person has applied more than once for asylum either in the same or another Member State – has increased from 17.5% in 2008 to 23.3% in 2009. In 2009, EURODAC processed 236,936 sets of fingerprints of asylum seekers, 31,071 sets of fingerprints of persons crossing the borders illegally, and 85,554 sets of fingerprints of people arrested while being illegally within an EU Member State. (Id.)

In marking the publication of the 2009 report, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, stated:

EURODAC is an essential part of the EU's Common European Asylum System … . The report published today shows the effective contribution of this EU-wide fingerprint database in managing asylum applications, by helping to establish which Member State should examine each of them through the storage and comparison of the fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal entrants and preventing the submission of multiple asylum requests. (Id.)