The Eurodac system enables the comparison of fingerprints of asylum applicants and illegal immigrants. The members states of the system are the 27 EU members, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and (until 31 December 2020) the United Kingdom.
The objective of Eurodac in the asylum process is to facilitate the application of the Dublin III Regulation. This Regulation provides a mechanism for determining which country is responsible for examining applications for international protection lodged in one of the member states.
In view of the difficulties anticipated in identifying foreign nationals who had already lodged an international protection application in another member state, ministers responsible for immigration agreed in 1991 to establish a system for the comparison of the fingerprints of international protection applicants.
The Eurodac system enables member states to identify asylum seekers and persons who have crossed an external frontier of the European Union in an irregular manner. By comparing fingerprints using Eurodac, member states can determine whether an asylum seeker or a foreign national found illegally present within a member state has previously claimed international protection in another member state.
(Note: the International Protection Act 2015 introduces new terminology but, for clarity, we will continue to use the terms “asylum” and “asylum seeker” as well.)
Eurodac consists of a Central Unit within the EU Commission, which is equipped with a central database for comparing the fingerprints of asylum applicants and a system for electronic data transmission between member states and the database.
In addition to fingerprints, data sent by member states include the member state of origin (the state sending the data), the place and date of the international protection application (if applicable), the person’s gender and a reference number. Data is collected for anyone over 14 years of age and is encoded directly into the database, either by the Central Unit or by the member state of origin.
In the case of asylum seekers, data is kept for 10 years unless the individual obtains the citizenship of one of the member states, when their particulars are immediately erased. Data relating to foreign nationals apprehended when attempting to cross an external border irregularly is kept for 2 years from the date on which the fingerprints were taken. Data is immediately erased before the end of 2 years if the foreign national either:
- Receives a residence permit or
- Has left the territory of the member states
In the case of foreign nationals found illegally present within a member state, Eurodac makes it possible to check their fingerprints against those in the central database to determine whether the individual had previously lodged an international protection application in another member state. After the fingerprints have been transmitted for comparison purposes, they are not stored by Eurodac.
As regards the protection of personal data, the member state of origin must ensure that all operations are performed lawfully, such as the taking of fingerprints, as well as all operations involving the use, transmission, conservation or erasure of the data.
Application of Eurodac in Ireland
As part of the process of making an application for international protection, you and your dependent minors will be required to have your photograph taken. You will also be required to have your fingerprints taken. Fingerprints of your dependent minors may also be taken. Your fingerprints may be disclosed in confidence to the relevant Irish authorities and to international protection authorities of other countries, which may have responsibility for considering your application under the Dublin III Regulation.
If you refuse to allow your fingerprints to be taken, you will be deemed not to have made reasonable effort to establish your true identity and to have failed in your duty to co-operate in the investigation of your application. This may affect the credibility of your application and lead to your application being withdrawn, in which case the Minister for Justice and Equality shall refuse to give you a declaration. You should also note that, in accordance with section 20 of the International Protection Act 2015, where an immigration officer or a member of An Garda Síochána, with reasonable cause, suspects that an applicant has not made reasonable effort to establish their identity, they may detain the person concerned.