EC: managing Europe’s borders with biometric data

Challenge summary

The European Commission needed a solution to make it easier for EU Member States to determine responsibility for examining asylum applications and thus facilitate the application of the Dublin Regulation.

Key points

  • European flagship biometric IT system helps ensure the proper implementation of the Dublin Regulation
  • The first common Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) within the EU
  • Europe-wide fingerprint database held in a central system for comparison purposes

 The challenge

European Union (EU) Member States need to identify third country nationals (asylum seekers) who generally do not possess identity documents. This requires a tool to help establish the Member State responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim and for protecting the asylum system from abuse by avoiding multiple applications by the same person in different Member States. In addition, Member States need to know whether an asylum seeker has been previously apprehended when entering EU territory unlawfully.

In order to facilitate this, the EU adopted a regulation in 2000 to establish a central system known as EURODAC for the comparison of fingerprint data at EU borders and within the EU.

Our solution

The EC selected IT-enabled service provider Steria to implement the EURODAC system, which became operational in 2003. This agreement was extended in 2008 with a significant upgrade of the system in a project known as EURODAC Plus.

Steria’s solution is built around a central European fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular cross-border travellers. It processes asylum claims and allows Member States to check if asylum has already been sought in another Member State.

Steria has delivered:

  • Design and implementation of a central fingerprint matching system

  • Implementation of NAPs (National Access Points), that enable the inter-connected Member States to send digital fingerprints to the EURODAC system.

How we worked together

Steria created the EURODAC Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in close collaboration with the European Commission (EC). The initial rollout in 2003 was achieved within the tight timeframe specified by the EU.

Steria developed a central system, a backup and a test system for fingerprint matching. In addition Steria worked with Member States to provide a system for the electronic capture and transmission of fingerprints (SteriaFIT). This is Steria’s bespoke system providing the secure transmission of all types of prints. SteriaFIT enables electronic transfer from remote sites to the centrally-run EURODAC system for comparison.

Steria was also responsible for:

  • Creation of a standardised Interface Control Document governing the communication between National Systems and EURODAC
  • Implementation of National Access Points for Member States, working directly with individual National Administrations
  • In 2008 Steria was entrusted by the EC with the enhancement of EURODAC. This phase brought an increase in the capacity of the central system and a business continuity solution.

Results and benefits

EURODAC allows each Member State to use fingerprint comparison within the solution for better and faster identification and return of asylum seekers.

The fingerprints taken are compared with the fingerprint data transmitted by other Member States already stored in the central database. If EURODAC detects that the fingerprints have already been recorded, the asylum seeker is redirected to the Member State where his/her fingerprints were originally recorded.

Amongst the benefits accruing are:

  • Fast and reliable identification and processing of asylum applicants and people who have been apprehended while unlawfully crossing an external EU border

  • Reduction in volume of asylum application abuse

  • Efficient processing with each single registration taking just a few minutes and negating the need for lengthy investigations every time asylum is sought.

Steria continues to support the EC’s EURODAC system through on-going maintenance.