Since its establishment in 2003, Eurodac (European Dactyloscopy System) has played a fundamental role in the digitisation of migration management and border security in the EU. The Eurodac database contains the fingerprints of all asylum applicants and migrants apprehended in connection with an irregular border crossing. Under proposed reforms to the Eurodac database, its scope is to be expanded to aid authorities in facilitating returns, tackling irregular migration and collecting individuals’ facial images with a view to future facial recognition technology. The recently amended Eurodac proposal released in September 2020 as part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (analysed previously on this blog) also proposes to lower the age for biometric data collection from 14 to 6 years old.
This contribution notes the current role of Eurodac and highlights the proposed changes to the system as they relate to minors and their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Charter). The EU asylum acquis, particularly Directive 2011/95/EU (Qualification Directive), considers minors as being children before being migrants. Within this category, unaccompanied minors are understood as a non-EU national or stateless person below the age of 18 who arrive on the territory of EU States unaccompanied by an adult. The challenges raised by the proposed expansion of Eurodac are analysed in the context of its impacts on both unaccompanied and accompanied minors arriving in the EU. Whilst many of the challenges identified affect all minors, the focus is on those faced by minors below the age of 14, who are considered to be a particularly vulnerable group and targeted by the extension of the current Eurodac system.
The proposal to lower the age for biometric data collection of minors from 14 to 6 years old poses significant risks to their right to human dignity (Article 1 Charter), their right to the integrity of person (Article 3 Charter), the rights of the child (Article 24 Charter), and the right to respect for private life (Article 7 Charter). These challenges are further complicated by efforts to introduce the interoperability of EU-wide databases, forming an increasingly complex and opaque ecosystem of biometric data processing, profiling and automated decision-making. Considering the inherent sensitivity of biometric data, as highlighted below, and the vulnerable position of minors crossing EU borders, this post also focuses on the right to protection of personal data (Article 8 Charter), especially as elaborated through the principles and rights enshrined in Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR).