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European Commission - Press release
EURODAC proposal: completing the Common European Asylum System
Brussels, 30 May 2012 – In 2011, the 27 EU Member States received more than 300 000 asylum applications, a 16.2% increase from 2010. Although this remains far below the peak of 425 000 applications received in 2001, increases in asylum flows can stretch the reception capacity of some Member States. Today the Commission proposed to improve the overall efficiency of EURODAC, the system which facilitates the quick and correct identification of the Member State responsible for assessing an asylum claim.
''The new EURODAC proposal is an integral part of a package of measures needed to set up a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). It provides the possibility for national law enforcement authorities under very limited and specific circumstances to make fingerprint checks against the EURODAC database in order to help prevent and fight the most serious crimes and terrorism. It will only be possible to make searches on a hit-/no hit basis and a EURODAC check can only be made if prior searches in national or Member States' databases do not yield results. Robust safeguards have been introduced to guarantee full the respect of fundamental rights and of privacy and in order to ensure that the right to asylum is not in any way adversely affected'', said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs.
EURODAC, a system for collecting asylum seekers' fingerprints, has been operating since 2003 and is an essential part of the EU's Common European Asylum System.
Today's proposal provides clearer deadlines for transmission of data, ensures full compatibility with the latest asylum legislation and better addresses data protection requirements. It also foresees the possibility for national law enforcement authorities to consult the EURODAC database for the purpose of prevention, detection and investigation of terrorist offences and other serious criminal offences, as requested by EU Member States.
The comparison of fingerprints held by Member States' designated law enforcement authorities and Europol with those stored in the EURODAC database would only be possible in specific cases under clearly-defined circumstances. The proposal explicitly excludes that law enforcement authorities search the EURODAC database on a systematic basis and prohibits them from sharing personal data obtained with third countries, organisations or entities. It also lays down strict security measures to ensure the security of personal data processed and establishes supervision of the processing activities by independent public data protection authorities.
These provisions on access to data and data security ensure that the fundamental rights of those whose fingerprints are stored in EURODAC are respected and that the asylum seekers and irregular migrants' privacy rights are protected.
EURODAC was the first instrument adopted in the field of asylum (Regulation 2725/2000/EC). It is a European flagship biometric IT system which helps ensure the proper implementation of the Dublin Regulation, contributing to the identification of third country nationals who generally don't possess identity documents. It has proved to be a useful tool in establishing the Member State responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim and in protecting the asylum system from abuse by avoiding multiple applications by a same person in different Member States.
However, after several years of being in operation, some updates were required, in particular to reduce the delay of transmission by some Member States, i.e. the time which elapses between the taking and sending of fingerprints to the Central Unit of EURODAC.
In order to facilitate progress on the whole asylum package, the proposal now also intends to allow law enforcement authorities to consult EURODAC for the purpose of prevention, detection and investigation of terrorist offences and other serious criminal offences.
The proposal will be presented to the Home Affairs Ministers at the next Justice and Home Affairs Council on 7-8 June 2012.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs
Homepage DG Home Affairs:
Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)
Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)