By Nikolaj Nielsen | EUobserver
Euro-deputies in the justice and homes affairs committee voted on Monday (17 December) to support draft legislation that would allow law enforcement authorities access to a finger print database on asylum seekers.
The biometric ID system, known as Eurodac, was created to prevent people from making multiple asylum requests in member states.
The European Commission over the summer proposed to amend Eurodac to allow police, as well as the EU-policy body Europol, to search and query the database. But giving police access has generated controversy among human rights organisations, the Brussels-based European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) and some MEPs.
“This is an important step in the wrong direction,” German green MEP Ska Keller, one of three MEPs who opposed opening up the database, told this website. Among the concerns are privacy rights and the risk of stigmatising asylum seekers as criminals.
Anyone who requests asylum, including minors, has their information stored on the database for at least 10 years. Some 300,000 applied for asylum in the EU last year alone.
The database also stores details on irregular migrants for up to two years. None of them have access to their files. Under the new changes, police would be able to cross check their fingerprints on the database with those stored in other national IT repositories to identify potential suspects in criminal investigations.
MEPs tabled a number of amendments to restrict the access, including a judicial review, but human rights lawyers say the development is a of form of “function creep.”