25th March 2013: Last week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate held in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) which formed part of a hearing, organised by the Committeee, of experts on Schengen II (the IT system used to manage the movement of people into and within the Schengen Area – the countries between which there are no manned borders).
He told the Committee's MEPs:
"Mr Lechner was informative on finger printing and the fact that dirt and sugary deposits reduce the quality of finger prints. When I was a child I was always puzzled about my parents’ insistence that I should keep washing my hands. Now I have the answer: they were after my finger prints!
"Mr Tudoache* said that SIS II** will be able to hold 100 million records compared with only 46 million records on SIS I.
"Why was the increase necessary: the increase in the number of member states?
"The records of whom or what will be kept on the system? What are the criteria for inclusion in these records? People seeking visas? People suspected of being involved in organised crime? Terrorist suspects? Perhaps, even political dissidents? Are the people all external (citizens of non-EU countries) or internal (citizens of EU countries)?
"For what purposes are these records used? To whom or to what are they passed? Are they ever passed to third countries (non EU countries)?
Mr Belser*** said that there were between half a million and a million people resident in the Netherlands with French passports based on false French documents (‘breeder documents’ such as faked birth certificates). These figures can presumably be replicated for other member states, especially the more affluent ones. People are less likely to target poor countries.
"These people on false documents must nearly all be illegal immigrants. This suggests that illegal immigration is simply out of control.
"Who is responsible for producing the false documents? Is it organised crime? Perhaps attention should be focused on discovering and stopping them?"
* Head of the Unit for Transeuropean Networks for Freedom and Security.
** SIS II is the new IT system for EU Border Management which will replace its predecessor SIS I from 9th April 2013 (the transfer being complete on 9th May 2013).
*** Ministry of Security and Justice, the Netherlands.
Responses to Questions:
Mr Tudoache said that the increased capacity was necessary because of: enlargement of the EU; greater use of the system; assessment of future needs; and greater mobility of people.
He said that the records were both of objects (false documents, seized firearms, stolen goods) and of people (people wanted under the European Arrest Warrant; missing persons). Some were EU citizens whilst others were from non-EU countries.
Mr Belser said that the illegal immigrants with false French documents in the Netherlands were from North Africa and the Caribbean. Many had been living in France where they had obtained their French passports on the basis of false ‘breeder’ documents such as false French passports. Many of these had been produced at home on personal computers.
Mr Belser did not say this, but it implied that the French authorities had not examined the documents as carefully as they might have done.
25th March 2013: Last week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate held in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on Schengen II.
He told the Committee's MEPs:
"The Commissioner (Cecilia Malmström) said that Schengen depended on trust and for external borders (of the EU) to be secure. The problem is that external borders are not secure.
"A few months ago we heard a representative (the Executive Director) of FRONTEX (the border control agency), who started with the good news that FRONTEX was successful in apprehending nearly all of the illegal immigrants who crossed the border with Turkey. However, he followed his remarks with the bad news: that the illegal migrants were not detained for long but were simply given a piece of paper containing an order to leave the EU. However, the person was not forcibly removed. We heard from the Commissioner (Malmström) that Schengen was based on trust. Yes, illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers are trusted to remove themselves.
"The arrival of illegal immigrants from North Africa has disrupted parts of Southern Europe and cost the lives of several migrants. Some are granted asylum and allowed to stay, others are refused asylum status and allowed to stay anyway.
"When the former Italian Government attempted forcibly to return illegal immigrants to the ports from which they embarked, it (the Government) it was censured. The laissez-faire policy of the EU towards illegal immigration is directly responsible for the deaths at sea of the illegal migrants from North Africa. If an illegal immigrant knows that it highly likely that he or she will be allowed the stay, the enormous risks seem worth taking.
"We heard from the Council (the improbably named Mr Shatter, a member of the Irish Government that holds the Presidency) that freedom of movement without frontiers within the Schengen Area was not intended to facilitate cross border crime. Of course not; nobody has suggested that it was. However, it has succeeded in doing just that. It allows the transport of drugs, arms, trafficked human beings and stolen property.
"Control of borders does not have to be time-consuming; it does not have to involve stopping every person or vehicle. The UK-French border at each end of the Channel Tunnel has demonstrated just that."
22nd March 2013: This week at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made a speech during a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on a proposed data protection regulation with the emphasis on employees' data.
"Much of the substantive content of the proposed regulation, as distinct from its form and source (from the EU!) is commendable. It would provide additional protection beyond the 1995 Directive, by introducing the 'right to be forgotten' and stricter requirements before 'consent' could be used as a defence (by an employer about his employees' data). However, amendment 1 would allow consent to be used even when there is an imbalance between the parties but only when it is legally and financially advantageous to the employee. I would be interested to know in what sort of circumstances consent might be advantageous. Employees might be coerced into accepting a nominal payment for consent to be given.
"Amendment 4 (allowing data to be transferred within a group of companies) might have unintended consequences in these days of large multinational or global companies and groups and might result in data being transferred quite widely.
"I do have concerns about increased power and discretion being given to the Commission (in the original text written by the Commission!) through the creation of the 'consistency mechanism' and the power to pass delegating and implementing acts. However, amendment 7 proposes to delete some of these powers.
"Amendment 20 proposes that data, especially sensitive data such as the political orientation of an employee may under no circumstances be used to put workers on so-called blacklists. Furthermore it proposed that member states should conduct checks and adopt adequate sanctions to ensure effective implementation.
"However, in many countries, it is the state that imposes employment bans in the public sector on the grounds of political opinion and affiliation.
"It is not, of course, the task of data protection legislation to outlaw employment bans.
"However, is it proposed that such discriminatory bans should continue but only on the basis of whispers, gossip and information passed by word of mouth?"
20th March 2013: At the European Parliament in Brussels this afternoon, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE) on the proposed amendment of an EU regulation on drug precursors*.
"I am wholly in favour of the substantive content of this measure. This is one of those limited areas of legislation where the law must be uniform internationally. If the EU did not exist (which I would prefer) this measure would have to have been brought into being by ad hoc international agreement or treaty.
"I believe that the proposal when amended will strike the right balance between necessary enforcement and data protection.
"This is one of those rare areas in which I shall probably be supporting EU legislation."
* Drug precursors are substances that are not themselves narcotics and have legitimate uses. However, they can be used in the production of illegal drugs. In particular, acetic anhydride (AA) can be used for the production of plastics, textiles, dyes and perfumes. However, it can also be used in the production of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. This regulation is designed to strengthen the law by providing a strengthened system of regulation and licensing to monitor the trade in drug precursors and thereby to prevent their misuse in the production of illegal drugs.