Registering children with fingerprints or facial images: protection or coercion?

This week, the European Parliament, Commission and Council will be discussing the EURODAC proposal, which arranges registration and identification of people arriving to Europe, including by collecting fingerprints and facial images.

The proposal already lowers the age at which a child can be fingerprinted from the age of fourteen to the age of six. Now discussions are taking place on whether coercion could be applied to obtain fingerprints or facial images of children as young as six.

While registering children, if done in the right way with all necessary safeguards in place, may contribute to their protection, we believe coercion of children in any kind of form is never acceptable. We also agree with the opinion of the European Fundamental Rights Agency, which says that collecting and using children’s data can only be justified if it pursues a clear child protection objective.

Building trust, ensuring decent reception conditions and explaining people’s rights in a language they know are important ways to facilitate registration of both adults and children without applying coercion or detention. In the case of unaccompanied children, the role of a guardian is crucial to ensure their protection.

The legal infrastructure in which law enforcement officials operate determines whether migrants and refugees, who are innocent, will be treated as criminals. It also has an impact on how they are perceived by the public. Both in the political and legislative discourse, we witness an emerging trend of criminalisation of asylum-seekers and third country nationals. Lawmakers have a responsibility to ensure that the rights and protection of human beings, especially children, comes first.