Sunday 12 July 2020

Police want access to refugee fingerprints to aid crime fighting

Dutch police are calling for easier access to the data base of fingerprints belonging to refugees and undocumented migrants in order to solve more crimes.

John Riemen, head of the national force’s biometrics centre, says that access would allow the police to catch more burglars and shoplifters, Trouw reported on Thursday.

Up to 2002, when police had full access to the data base, it provided one third of all positive matches, Riemen told the paper.

The new register which came into being in 2003 contains 700,000 fingerprints as well as more personal details about seven million non-Dutch nationals, including highly-skilled migrants.

Police can only access the data base under certain conditions, and a judge has to give access. One condition is that the police suspect that a foreigner may have been involved in a crime.

‘It is frustrating not to be able to look in a database that could solve a crime,’ Riemen said. This means some categories of criminal, such as terrorist suspects who pose as refugees, remain away from the police radar, he said.


The two Liberal parties in the current coalition support the idea of giving the police greater access to the database, Trouw said. Critics, however, warn that it is both discriminatory and stigmatising.

‘By far the majority of foreigners are not guilty of any crime,’ said Inge Hidding, of the Dutch association of asylum lawyers. ‘It would be wrong to make them out to be more likely suspects.’

Last year a Dutch media investigation found that eight years since European citizens were first required to include a fingerprint scan in their passports, the technology has never been used to check a passenger crossing a border.

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