01 April 2016
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On Wednesday the European Commission set out its plans to expand EU and national databases "to allow effective management of migration and to contribute to internal security." One of the myriad ways this could be done is by "collecting fingerprints of children between the age of 6 and 12 years old" who enter the EU on short-stay visas.
See: page 9 of European Commission, Stronger and Smarter Information Systems for Borders and Security, COM(2016) 205 final, 6 April 2016
Lowering the age for the fingerprinting of children for travel documents has been on the cards since 2009 legislation that called for a study to investigate the possibility of fingerprinting children under the age of 12 and "if necessary" provide "a proposal to amend the age limit." 
The study, conducted by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and published in 2013, concluded that: "under appropriate conditions, fingerprint recognition of children aged between 6 and 12 years is achievable with a satisfactory level of accuracy." 
The JRC report does not contain an explicit recommendation, but the Commission notes the Centre's "technically feasible" findings in the new proposal and states that there will be "robust Fundamental Rights safeguards and protection measures". The Commission does not expand any further on this point.
The VIS contains a record of all successful and rejected applicants for EU short-stay visas and has a total capacity of some 70 million records, which are held for five years from the date of expiry (for approved visas), rejection or modification. Up to August 2013 it had been used to process over 3.2 million (3,204,441) applications for short-stay visas that included fingerprints. The proportion of those that belonged to children - that is, those under 18 - is unknown.
Some EU states are already ahead of the game: the UK already takes fingerprints from children as young as five as part of the visa process. Previous discussions within the Council have demonstrated the variety of rules across the EU. The Czech Republic noted in 2006 that it takes fingerprints for visas and residence permits from the age of five and a facial image "from birth", while Spain said it took both biometrics "from birth". 
Background and further reading
 Article 1.2a, Regulation (EC) No 444/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 May 2009 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States
 Joint Research Centre, Study on Fingerprint Recognition for Children, September 2013
 Fingerprinting of children - the debate goes on, Statewatch News Online, August 2006
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