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Decoding Balkandac: Navigating the EU’s Biometric Blueprint

Date 25 September, 2023
Category Special Report

This report, authored by the Border Violence Monitoring Network with support from Privacy International, investigates the development of interoperable biometric databases, akin to Eurodac, in the Western Balkans, referred to as the “Balkandac” system. It highlights a lack of transparency in current regional data-sharing systems and underscores the significant role of EU institutions in their creation.

The report employs a comprehensive methodology, combining grassroots observations, open-source research, and Freedom of Information Requests (FOI) submissions to address human rights violations.

Funding from the EU’s Instruments for Pre-Accession Assistance and bilateral agreements with Member States have supported the creation of biometric data systems in the Western Balkans, mirroring Eurodac. Critiques arise from increased interoperability of EU databases, which blur immigration and criminal law purposes, lack anti-discrimination safeguards, and bypass key data protection principles.

Though the European Commissioner suggested connecting these systems to Eurodac would only occur after EU accession, the report shows some connections are already in practice. This raises concerns about access to international protection, data privacy, and heightened surveillance of migrants.

Evidence collected by the Border Violence Monitoring Network indicates ongoing biometric data gathering in Western Balkan states with accession status. Testimonies reveal data collection during illegal pushbacks, often without informing individuals about how their data will be used or stored, thus violating their rights.

The core issue lies in the balance between personal data protection and fundamental rights, contrasted with the use of biometric systems for mass surveillance and data analysis. The report emphasizes the merging of migration and security discourses, underscoring the potential for unjust criminalization of migrants, making it harder for them to seek asylum and international protection.