The European Parliament recently voted in favour of creating a centralised biometric database that will be used by law enforcement authorities in every country in the Schengen area to better detect security threats and identity fraud and to prevent and combat irregular migration.
The new centralised biometric database, called the Common Identity Repository (CIR), will include personal records and unique biometric details of nearly all migrants and non-EU citizens living in the Schengen area. It will serve as a common repository for law enforcement authorities who, until now, have had to check multiple country-specific databases to ascertain identities of migrants and check identity fraud.
Basically, the Common Identity Repository (CIR) will contain all details that were separetely available in pan-European databases such as the Schengen Information System, Eurodac, the Visa Information System (VIS) and three new systems: the European Criminal Records System for Third Country Nationals (ECRIS-TCN), the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).
Centralised biometric database to help tackle identity fraud
"The new rules will make EU information systems used in security, border and migration management interoperable enabling data exchange between the systems. This will facilitate the tasks of border guards, migration officers, police officers and judicial authorities by providing them with more systematic and faster access to various EU security and border-control information systems," the European Parliament noted.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, told POLITICO in an e-mail statement that the new legislation that legalises the centralised biometrics database will "fix fragmentation of European efforts to enhance security, close information gaps and address the risks of terrorists and serious criminals crossing our borders undetected."
John Gunn, CMO at OneSpan, told TEISS News that the Common Identity Repository is a very positive move that will simply make the task of border control more timely, efficient, and effective resulting in speedier cross-border travels with less hassle and in greater safety for all as those with evil intent are more easily identified and stopped.
Rapporteur Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL), also said that "without changing access rights or endangering the data protection rules that govern them, interoperability will ensure faster, more systematic and more complete access to EU information systems for professionals on the ground: police officers, border guards, migration officers and consulate staff members, in order for them to do their job better".
Even though the centralised biometric database will make it easier for law enforcement authorities to cross-match fingerprints and facial images from several systems, check dates of birth and passport numbers of migrants for more reliable identification, and detect whether a person is registered under multiple identities in different databases, its effectiveness will also be measured by how secure the database will be from external access.
This is because, according to POLITICO, the database is expected to contain over 300 million records of migrants and non-EU citizens "including fingerprints, photographs, names, addresses and other information". As such, the database will be a constant target of cyber criminals looking to gain access to personal information of hundreds of thousands of people and either sell such information on the Dark Web or use it to commit identity fraud.
The EU parliament's decision to legalise the Common Identity Repository comes exactly a year after MEPs voted in favour of the creation of a centralised EU system for asylum claims in light of the unrestricted influx of migrants in the EU.
MEPs noted that the centralised system to process asylum claims would prevent so-called asylum shopping and ensure that asylum applications are processed more consistently across the EU. "It was important to have a concise, efficient procedure, one that did not overload the member states with bureaucracy," said Laura Ferrara, the lead MEP on the asylum procedures reform.
The adoption of centralised EU system for asylum claims and more recently, the Common Identity Repository, is part of the European Parliament's intent to fulfill the wishes of a majority of EU citizens who want the EU to do more on migration. While 73% of Europeans still want the EU to do more to manage the situation, 58% think the EU’s actions regarding migration are inadequate.