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MEMO/08/759

Brussels, 3 December 2008

Questions and Answers on the Commission Proposal to amend the EURODAC Regulation

Why is it necessary to have a mechanism for the identification of asylum-seekers?

The Treaty establishing the European Community (Article 63.1.a, created by the Treaty of Amsterdam) specifically requested the Council to adopt criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum request presented by a third-country national. This took shape with the so-called Dublin Regulation[1] which was adopted in 2003 and replaced a previous Convention which fell outside the scope of Community legislation. One of the purposes of the Dublin system is to guarantee effective access to the procedures for determining refugee status, ensure the rapid processing of asylum applications and thus ensure that they will be effectively processed by one of the Member States. The other purpose is to prevent abuse of asylum procedures in the form of multiple applications for asylum submitted simultaneously or successively by the same person in several Member States

Member States anticipated that identifying aliens who had already lodged an asylum application in another Member State would be difficult, if not impossible. Hence, a Community-wide information technology system for the comparison of the fingerprints of asylum seekers, commonly known as EURODAC, was established by a Council Regulation[2] and started operations on 15 January 2003. It was created to facilitate the application of the Dublin Regulation.

EURODAC allows Member States to determine whether an asylum applicant or a foreign national illegally present in a Member State has previously applied for asylum in another Member State. Among other criteria, the Dublin Regulation allocates responsibility for the assessment of an asylum claim also on the basis of which Member State allowed the applicant to the territory of the Member States. Therefore, EURODAC allows Member States to verify whether the asylum-seeker was previously apprehended when crossing irregularly the border of a Member State coming from a third country.

The regulation establishing EURODAC lays down strictly defined and harmonised rules regarding the storage, comparison and erasure of fingerprints, while it also provides for data protection and data security safeguards.

The Regulation provides for the implementation of a Central Unit (CU) managed by the European Commission containing an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). Fingerprints taken by Member States are sent to this system which indicates whether the same fingerprints are already stored in the database and if this is the case, which Member State sent them in.

In addition to fingerprints, the central database also keeps record of the place and date of the application for asylum, the Member State which entered the data and its reference number, the gender of the applicant, the date on which the fingerprints were taken and when they were transmitted to the CU. These data are collected for any asylum applicant and any third country national or stateless person apprehended in connection with the irregular crossing of an external border at least 14 years of age. The data can be kept for up to 10 years and up to 2 years respectively, unless the individual obtains the citizenship of one of the Member States, receives a residence permit or leaves the territory of the Member States (at which point the data is erased).

Why is the Commission now proposing to amend the Eurodac Regulation?

The Hague Programme agreed by the European Council in 2004 called for the submission by the Commission of the second-phase instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) to the Council and the European Parliament with a view to their adoption before the end of 2010. The Commission's intention to propose amendments to the Eurodac Regulation in the framework of the second phase of the Common European Asylum System was confirmed in its recently published Policy Plan on Asylum.

Five years after the start of its operation, the present proposal intends to amend the EURODAC Regulation in order to address the deficiencies identified in the Commission report[3] on the evaluation of the Dublin system (which includes the EURODAC Regulation) presented in 2007. It also takes note of the outcome of the consultation process on the Green Paper on the future of the Common European Asylum System[4].

The main objective of the proposal is to ensure, on the one hand, a more efficient use of the EURODAC database to facilitate the application of the Dublin Regulation, and, on the other hand, that data protection concerns are better addressed.

Which amendments are proposed?

The proposed amendments aim in particular to:

Regarding the more efficient use of the EURODAC database:

  • establish rules to ensure truly prompt transmission of fingerprints to the Central Unit of EURODAC in order to ensure that the Member State responsible under the Dublin Regulation for examining the application is correctly identified;
  • update and clarify definitions of the different stages of management of the database, also in line with the objective to house all large-scale IT systems under Title IV of the TEC in one location under one management and running on the same platform (enabling to improve productivity and reduce operational costs);
  • to unblock data on recognised refugees and to make them searchable by national asylum authorities, in order to avoid that a recognised refugee in one Member State applies for protection in another Member State.

Regarding data protection concerns:

  • establish technical rules to ensure that Member States delete data which is no longer necessary for the purpose for which were collected and to ensure that Commission can better monitor the respect of the data protection principles;
  • clarify the provisions ensuring effective monitoring by the Commission and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) of access to data in EURODAC by national authorities.

When will these proposals take effect?

The Commission proposal will only become EU law after its negotiation and formal adoption by the Council and the European Parliament using the codecision procedure. It is expected that the negotiations will take approximately two years in the Council and the European Parliament. After the amended Regulation is adopted and published in the Official Journal, the Member States will have up to one year to make the necessary technical arrangements in their systems to comply with the new configuration of EURODAC.

During the negotiation of the amendments, the provisions of the current Regulation remain applicable in the Member States.


[1] Council Regulation EC/343/2003 of 18 February 2003 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining a request for asylum lodged in one of the Member States by a third country national.

Available in Eur-Lex:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32003R0343:EN:HTML

[2] Council regulation EC/2725/2000 of 11 December 2000 concerning the establishment of 'Eurodac' for the comparison of fingerprints for the effective application of the Dublin Convention
Available in Eur-Lex:
http://eur -lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32000R2725:EN:HTML

[3] COM (2007) 299. Available in Eur-Lex:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52007DC0299:EN:HTML

[4] COM (2007) 301. Available in Eur-Lex:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52007DC0301:EN:HTML


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