Belgium authorizes a biometric database for migrants, with the aim of combating illegal migration and overstays

The Belgian Federal Council of Ministers has approved the creation of a new biometric database on migrants, to which all EU Member States will have access.

It will further help the European Union’s Entry/Exit System (EES) to become operational by the end of the year – a system that can store data on migrants for up to 90 days. The platform helps authorities in Belgium and other EU member states to check whether a migrant’s stay in the EU has ended, reports

The automated system will contain the personal information of non-EU citizens, such as name, type of travel document, fingerprints, facial recognition, date and place of entry or exit at each border crossing point of the EU.

“The entry and exit system considerably increases control over who enters the European Union. As a result, [Belgium] will know immediately of all persons in the territory who stay longer than the authorized duration”, Belgian State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Sammy Mahdi, noted in a press release.

The authority further adds that the new digital tracking system will replace the way such checks of illegal migrants were carried out in the past, which included checking in person and asking residents if they know of any illegal migrants living around. them.

Mahdi also said that the platform is even more important given the growing number of people (more than 200,000) who enter Belgian territory every year with short-term visas, also saying that it will be easier to know those whose visas have expired and that they must return. to their country of origin.

For example, a traveler entering Spain without a visa from a third country, although considered illegal, can travel to Belgium or the other EU member states when their 90-day visa expires instead of leaving the block. The current system cannot provide data when a person’s visa has expired, while EES will provide a digital trail.

Activists and rights organizations have criticized the database, expressing concerns about privacy and data security due to the collection of people’s biometric information.

On the other hand, EU Member States have prepared for SEA by installing and deploying biometric border control systems. More specifically, in 2020, Idemia and Sopra Steria won the framework contract for a biometric matching system for the Entry/Exit System.

The EU has grappled with rising numbers of immigrants as last month the bloc’s Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex, said 40,300 illegal border crossings had been recorded in the first three months of 2022, almost reaching the levels of 2016, when the EU was hit by an immigration crisis with hundreds of people dying trying to reach the bloc.

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