EU Turns to Biometric Identity Systems to Return African Migrants

A European Union Development fund is financing Biometric identity systems in Senegal and Ivory Coast with an additional goal of helping them identify illegal immigrants in Europe.

According to a report by Privacy International, the system will help identify undocumented citizens and organize their return.

One document goes farther to say that the system in Ivory Coast in part aims to “facilitate the identification of people genuinely of Ivorian nationality and to organize their return more easily.”

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Biometric Identity Systems gathers the names, dates of birth and personal data linking it with physical attributes such as fingerprints and facial scans. The systems are vital in law enforcement and in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, Interpol helped to gather biometric data to help in the fight against terrorism.

Apart from Law enforcement and establishing legal identity, biometric systems can also provide an avenue for racial discrimination. In more advanced countries including Europe, Biometric data is considered sensitive and is processed under very strict conditions whenever it is required.

According to Privacy International, the EU Trust Fund for Africa allocated 60 million euros for the Biometric systems development in the two countries.

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A consulting firm for France’s interior ministry, Civipol, was awarded the funding and is tasked with supporting the governments in Senegal and Ivory Coast to modernize the national registry systems. Belgian Development agency, Enabel, also offered additional support in Senegal.

The NGO also published documents accusing an EU Law enforcement training agency of teaching security authories in other countries including Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina tactics such as basic hacking techniques and development of fake social media profiles when researching users.

Privacy International wrote a letter to the EU calling on them to avoid development funding that could provide tools of repression to other governments around the world.

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“Instead of helping people who face daily threats from unaccountable surveillance agencies, including activists, journalists, and people just looking for better lives, this ‘aid’ risks doing the very opposite,” said Edin Omanovic, Privacy International’s advocacy director.

Since 2016, the EU has been on a mission to implement migration-control agreements with plans to return more immigrants to Africa and the Middle East.

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Written by Francis Muli

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