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Brussels, 3 August 2010

EU's biometric database continues to ensure effective management of the Common European Asylum System

The 2009 annual report on the activities of EURODAC (the EU wide biometric tool which helps determine which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum claim), was published today by the Commission. The report gives essential information on patterns of asylum seeking and illegal entry in the EU, and shows a sharp decrease in the number of persons apprehended in connection with irregular crossing of the EU external border. The figure for 'multiple applications' – asylum claims where the same person has already made an application in the same country or in another Member State – has increased to 23.3% from last year's 17.5%.

"EURODAC is an essential part of the EU's Common European Asylum System" stated Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs. "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".

The EURODAC Central Unit which manages the central system was operational for 99.42% of the reporting period, operating 24/24 hours and 7/7 days. It continued to provide very satisfactory results in terms of speed, output, security and cost-effectiveness.

In 2009, EURODAC processed 236.936 sets of fingerprints of asylum seekers, 31.071 sets of fingerprints of people crossing the borders irregularly and 85.554 sets of fingerprints of people apprehended while illegally staying on the territory of a Member State.

Figures show that in 2009, the number of registered asylum applications rose by 8%, which means that the increasing trend of the previous two years continued. At the same time, the number of registered irregular entrants changed dramatically in 2009. After a rise of 62.3% between 2007 and 2008 (to 61.945), the number of transactions fell by 50% in 2009 (to 31.071). The number of searches in the database on the basis of fingerprints of third country nationals found illegally on the territory of the Member States increased by 12.7%.

23.3% of the asylum applications in 2009 were multiple (i.e. second or more) asylum applications. However, this figure includes not only the instances in which persons applied for asylum more than once, but also a number of instances in which the fingerprints of an asylum seeker are recorded both by the Member State in which he applied for asylum and in the Member State ultimately deemed responsible for consideration of the asylum claim. The Commission proposed to remedy this distortion in its proposal to amend the EURODAC Regulation, adopted in December 2008.

Continuing the increasing trend of the previous year, 2009 saw a further increase in the delay of transmission by some Member States, i.e. the time elapsed between the taking and sending of fingerprints to the Central Unit of EURODAC, with the longest such delay being 36,35 days. It is important to reiterate that by sending data late to the system, the determination of the Member State responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim can be inaccurate. The Commission's proposal sets out to remedy this concern by setting clearer deadlines for transmission of data.


Policy background

Since 15 January 2003, the fingerprints of anyone over the age of 14 who applies for asylum in the European Union (as well as in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) or is apprehended in connection with the irregular crossing of an external border are stored in the EURODAC database. This system was created to support the development of an asylum policy common to all Member States of the European Union.

EURODAC aims at facilitating the application of the Dublin Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 of 18 February 2003), which determines the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application. This Regulation sets out a series of criteria on the basis of which responsibility for examining an asylum application is allocated to a Member State. That Member State is then responsible for examining the application according to its national law and is obliged to take back its applicants who are irregularly in another Member State.

In the framework of the first asylum package drawn up to answer the call of the Hague Programme to create the second phase of the Common European Asylum System, the Commission adopted on 3rd December 2008 a proposal to amend the EURODAC Regulation. This proposal is aimed at ensuring a more efficient use of the EURODAC database for the purpose of determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum claim (i.e. application of the Dublin Regulation), and at better addressing data protection concerns.

Technical background

EURODAC is the first common Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to have been established within the European Union.

The European Commission operates the system on behalf of participating States. Co-operation in this framework has formed a good basis for future common large-scale IT projects, such as the second generation of the Schengen Information System or the future European Visa Information System.

Under the EURODAC system, participating States have to promptly take the fingerprints of each asylum seeker over the age of 14. The procedure for taking fingerprints has been agreed in accordance with the safeguards laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These fingerprints are then compared with fingerprint data transmitted by other participating States stored in the central database. If EURODAC shows that the fingerprints have already been recorded, the asylum seeker might be sent back to the country where his/her fingerprints were originally taken.

Access to this system is restricted to the sole purpose stated in the EURODAC Regulation. The database does not contain details such as the name of a person because it relies only on biometric comparison, the safest and most accurate available identification method. Each participating State ensures that the national supervisory authority on data protection monitors independently the lawfulness of the processing of the data.

EURODAC consists of a Central Unit within the Commission equipped with a fully automated, computerised central database for comparing fingerprints and a system for electronic data transmission between each participating State and the Central Unit. Every necessary measure has been taken to guarantee the security and protection of the data registered.

The expenditure for maintaining and operating the Central Unit in 2009 amounted to € 1.221.183. The increase in the expenditure compared to previous years (820.791 in 2007 and 605.720 in 2008) is explained by the first instalment for the ongoing upgrade of the EURODAC system combined with increased system maintenance costs.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

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