EU criticised over proposals to forcibly fingerprint migrant children

The Eurodac system has an established fingerprint database for asylum seekers coming entering the EU. Under a new proposed law by the commission, member states would, in future, be allowed to forcibly fingerprint children as well as adults as long as they are over the age of 14. This has been met with mixed reactions. A number of groups have condemned the proposals, whilst others say it would improve level of safety the EU can provide them with.

Since 2015, when over a million asylum seekers entered the EU, the migration policies used have been under constant criticism. These new measures are still under negotiation between the commission and the EU council and parliament, however, they are expected to cause the same level of concern among human rights groups and activists.

Those defending the proposals claim that fingerprinting could help to safeguard children. According to Europol, over 10,000 refugee children went missing across the EU between 2014 and 2016. A fingerprint database would allow children who have been separated from their families to be reunited with them, as well as protecting children from becoming victim to criminal gangs. “For the member states this is a matter of migration control, for us it is [about] child protection”, said MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt.

However, what happens if the child doesn’t want to provide their fingerprints? Many human rights activists have warned that by using coercion to collect them, this is the equivalent of violence and could therefore be very traumatic children who are already vulnerable.

Delphine Moralis, secretary-general of the group Terre des Hommes, who campaign for children’s rights argued: .“One of the reasons why children fall through the system is because they do not trust the authorities. If you want to protect them, you have to make sure they feel like they are in a safe environment and using force is not going to help with that.”

However, when asked about the use of coercion, a spokesperson for the commission said that fingerprinting would be carried out “in full respect of their rights and best interests.” They added: “The Commission, in its proposal for a reform of Eurodac, lowered the age for taking fingerprints and facial images to 6 years precisely to strengthen the protection of children in migration.”

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