Eurodac – access for law enforcement authorities

 Illuminated fingerprint on a dark-coloured glass plate.
Fingerprinting, or dactyloscopy (the technique of examining fingerprints in order to identify individuals). © George Prentzas

The Eurodac database contains the fingerprints of persons applying for asylum in a Dublin state or caught entering the country illegally. The Swiss law enforcement authorities do not yet have access to this data. In order to improve Switzerland's internal security, the Federal Council intends to give the law enforcement authorities access to the Eurodac database, subject to certain conditions.

Switzerland and the EU concluded negotiations on Eurodac access for the Swiss law enforcement authorities at the end of 2017. The relevant protocol was signed on 27 June 2019. For it to come into force with legally binding effect, both parties now need to ratify the instrument. The Federal Council is expected to submit a bill to Parliament in November 2020. Once the protocol has been approved by Parliament, the Federal Council is expected to ratify it towards the middle of 2022.

Access for law enforcement authorities investigating serious offences

The Eurodac database, established in 2003, contains the fingerprints of persons claiming asylum in a Dublin State or caught entering the country illegally. The system allows Dublin states to check whether asylum seekers have submitted an asylum application in another Dublin state or if they have entered via a safe third country. Access was previously restricted to parties requiring data on asylum seekers. The information was not made available to national law enforcement authorities. This situation changed in 2015, when the EU Eurodac Regulation, as amended, came into force. The Regulation specifically gives law enforcement authorities the right to access Eurodac, subject to strict conditions. For example, the law enforcement authorities may only access Eurodac if the following databases have previously returned a negative result:

  • National fingerprint and DNA databases
  • Databases under the Prüm police cooperation scheme
  • Visa Information System (VIS) for Schengen States

In addition, accessing Eurodac is only permitted for the purposes of investigating suspected terrorism or other serious criminal offences, but not lesser crimes (misdemeanours). Fingerprints may also only be compared for specific cases. Systematic comparisons may not be carried out.

The new provisions of the Eurodac Regulation granting access to the law enforcement authorities do not constitute a further development of the Dublin acquis. As a result, they do not automatically apply to Switzerland. In order to participate, Switzerland was therefore required to sign the protocol on 27 June 2019.

Effectively tackling cross-border crime

Database access is essential in enabling the Swiss law enforcement authorities to fight organised crime and terrorism. Access to European databases is particularly important in order to combat cross-border crime effectively, as evidenced by the Visa Information System (VIS), which the law enforcement authorities have been able to access since 2008.  This is why the Federal Council wanted to agree a protocol with the EU that allows the Swiss law enforcement authorities to access Eurodac data. In return, the law enforcement authorities in European partner countries will also be able to access Swiss data stored on Eurodac.

Countries seeking Eurodac access must participate in the Prümer police cooperation scheme, which requires EU member states, Norway and Iceland to maintain various police DNA and fingerprint databases. The agreement on Switzerland's participation in the Prüm police cooperation scheme was also signed on 27 June 2019. As with the Eurodac protocol, both parties must ratify the agreement before it can come into force. Further information is available in the 'Prüm' factsheet.

Chronology

  • Mid-2022 protocol expected to be ratified
  • 27.06.2019 protocol signed by Switzerland and the EU
  • 21.09.2016    Start of negotiations