Brussels, 19 September 2006
Since 15 January 2003, the fingerprints of anyone over the age of 14 who applies for asylum in the European Union, in Norway or in Iceland are stored in a database called EURODAC. EURODAC was created to support the development of an asylum policy common to all Member States of the European Union.
EURODAC aims at facilitating 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 establishes a series of criteria which allocate responsibility for examining an asylum application to the Member State that permitted the applicant to enter or reside. 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.
EURODAC is the first common Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) 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 Identification 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 can 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.