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France: Storage of Biometric Data from Foreigners Benefiting from Repatriation Aid

(Oct. 4, 2010) Starting October 1, 2010, biometric data (digital photographs and fingerprints) of foreigners who benefited from repatriation aid will be stored in a database referred to as OSCAR (Outil Simplifie de Controle des Aides au Retour– Tool for Verification of Repatriation Aid) (Le fichage biométrique des étrangers bénéficiant de l'aide au retour entre en vigueur le 1er Octobre, LEMONDE.FR (Sept. 29, 2010),

OSCAR was created by a decree of October 26, 2009 (Décret n° 2009-1310 du 26 octobre 2009 portant création d'un traitement automatisé de données à caractère personnel relatives aux étrangers bénéficiaires du dispositif d'aide au retour géré par l'Office français de l'immigration et de l'intégration, Legifrance, [File: Les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires]). At present it contains data concerning the identities of foreigners who benefited from three categories of repatriation aid: humanitarian, voluntary return, and integration aid. These data are stored for five years. The French government suspects foreigners, notably the Roma, of going back and forth between France and their countries of origin in order to repeatedly benefit from the humanitarian aid through the use of false identities. Humanitarian repatriation aid, for example, is €300 (about US$409) per person, with an additional €100 for each accompanying child, plus transportation tickets. Approximately €9 million (about US$12.3 million)-worth of such aid was distributed in 2009 (LEMONDE.FR, supra).

Several human rights groups consider the storage of the data to be an “immediate” and “massive danger” for the Roma “within the context of the xenophobic campaign conducted during the summer by the French Government.” They have filed a complaint before the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, arguing, among other reasons for their contention, that the nature of the data and the length of storage are disproportionate to the database's purpose. (Id.)