The EU is set to reach a political agreement on legislation to fingerprint asylum seekers as young as six, to process facial images, and to use force if necessary.
On Tuesday (5 December), the Spanish EU presidency announced a final agreement had almost been concluded, with a possible political agreement on Thursday.
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“The file is close to a final agreement, we’ve discussed all main political issues,” said Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s interior minister speaking on behalf of the EU presidency.
“Reaching an agreement on this file would send a much needed signal of our ability to finalise the pact as a whole,” said Grande-Marlaska.
Known as Eurodac, the file is part of a much larger EU-wide asylum reform that has been grinding its way through the legislative machinery for years as political pressure mounts to conclude the overhaul.
But Eurodac has also come under intense scrutiny by civil rights defenders, who say the proposed reform of the database is tantamount to mass surveillance.
Earlier this week, over 100 civil society organisations and experts demanded the wholesale rejection of the Eurodac reform and its expansion.
They say it may undermine the EU’s duty to respect international asylum and migration law and standards.
Among the critical voices is the EU’s own Vienna-based Fundamental Rights Agency, who says the use of physical or psychological force to obtain fingerprints would be unjustified.
Eurodac is currently used by EU states to verify if fingerprints of an asylum-seeker or an “irregular border crosser” have already been recorded elsewhere.
Although it has been around since 2003, the reforms proposed by the European Commission seeks to widen its scope, interlink records and ease police access.
The EU institutions have held seven closed door negotiations on the file, where they discussed issues dealing with direct access of law enforcement, as well as the collection of data to resettle people in countries outside the EU.
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Remaining issues to be ironed out on Thursday include data-retention periods. They are also discussing whether to include Ukrainian refugees in the system.
The Eurodac reform was proposed in 2020 by the European Commission on the back of a provisional agreement already reached by the co-legislators in 2018.
That agreement also came without any vote or transparency. Its lead negotiator in the European Parliament is Jorge Buxadé, a far-right politician from Spain’s Vox party.