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EU vows to make asylum-seeker database 'more efficient'

Gives police get powers to use it in 'serious crime' investigations

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The European Commission has pledged to improve the efficiency of the fingerprint database EURODAC, which stores prints from the hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum in the EU every year.

The centralised fingerprint hoard is one of the EU's flagship biometric IT projects - used by national asylum systems to identify applicants, useful especially where seekers do not have identity papers. The new proposals aim to make the database more efficient by imposing deadlines on nation states - speeding up the time it takes individual countries to send the fingerprints to EURODAC.

The Commission also proposes that national police should be allowed to make checks against the database, though within boundaries designed to protect personal data. National police forces will be able to run checks on the database when investigating serious crime or terrorism, but they cannot search EURODAC on a "systematic basis" or share the information they find with third countries.

Cecilia Malmström, EU Home Affairs commissioner, explained:

It will only be possible to make searches on a hit/no hit basis and a EURODAC check can only be made if prior searches in national or Member States' databases do not yield results.

In 2011, the 27 EU member states received more than 300,000 asylum applications, up 16.2 per cent from 2010, but still less than the high of 425,000 in 2001. ®

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