EU Summit: Agreement on standardised biometric identification linked to EU databases

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The EU Summit has backed the allocation 140 million euros to developing controls at borders and of databases. This includes the Visa Information System (VIS) and the next generation Schengen Information System (SIS II):

"a coherent approach is needed in the EU on biometric identifiers or biometric data, which could result in harmonised solutions for documents for third country nationals, EU citizens' passports and information systems (VIS and SIS II)"

The Visa Information System will log all applications for visas to enter the EU, the length of stay, arrival and departure date, and those to be refused entry. The SIS holds list of those to be refused entry (Article 96) and people or vehicles to be placed under surveillance (Article 99). As at 5 March 2003 data was held on a total of 780,992 people under Article 96 and there were 16,016 entries under Article 99. It also holds the names and details on a number of protestors detained over the past two years.

The demand for the introduction of harmonised biometric data (eg: fingerprints, DNA or iris scans) has been lead by the US post-11 September who have been backed by the UK. This was first announced in the US Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of May 2002 and is to be introduced from October 2004 at an estimated cost of $3.8 billion. All passports and visas for those entering the USA will be compulsory.

The proposal was discussed at the G8 meeting in May. At this meeting UK Home Secretary said that biometric data would be included on UK passports from 2006 embedded in a microchip - which may contain other unspecified data.

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

"This will mean the mandatory introduction of biometric and maybe other data on all travellers - whether migrants, visitors or EU citizens. The adoption of this decision for the wholesale surveillance of peoples' movements by the EU Council (the 15 Prime Ministers) has been taken without any public consultation or debate in parliaments. The EU Council cannot legislate but its decisions are routinely translated into EU law - it is a totally undemocratic procedure."

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