Challenges and practices for establishing identity in the migration process (EMN)
The Belgian Contact Point of the European Migration Network has published a report on challenges and practices for establishing identity in the migration process. The report served as the Belgian contribution to an EU Synthesis report on the topic, which compares national policies, legislation and practices on the subject in 25 EU Member States and Norway.
The overall aim of the study is to offer an overview of the important challenges faced by national authorities in their efforts to reliably establish and verify the identity of third-country nationals within the context of various migration procedures -namely those related to international protection, return and legal migration channels (including both short-stay and long-stay visas and residence permits)- and of national practices to address those challenges.
In the second half of 2015 Belgium was confronted with a strong increase in applicants for international protection. It concerned in particular applicants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and to a lesser extent also applicants from African countries such as Somalia and Guinea. The report explains why these nationalities pose specific difficulties as regards establishing the identity and assessing the documentary evidence.
Also establishing the identity in the context of return continues to be very challenging. The most important obstacles are a lack of cooperation from the person concerned and also a lack of cooperation on the part of some countries of origin to confirm the identity and issue a laissez-passer. As regards identification with a view to forced return, the availability of an identity or travel document is often decisive to establish the identity and is required to implement the return.
Establishing the identity in the framework of a visa application is more straight forward, in particular for what concerns short stay visa where the procedures as foreseen in the Visa Code have to be applied and where fingerprint comparison can take place through the Visa Information System (VIS). For long stay visa, in particular in the framework of family reunification the identification procedure can be more difficult.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the collection and storage of personal data, such as the collection of biometric data in the framework of visa applications for short stay through the VIS. However the incorporation and adequate use of biometrics for establishing the identity is a long-term process and there is obviously room for further progress, for example concerning interoperability.
Taking into account the security challenges but also taking into account technological evolutions, the challenge lays in finding a balance between making use of all available personal data to increase security on the one hand and to ensure the right to privacy and data protection on the other hand.
EU comparative study
The Synthesis Report is available is based on National Reports from 25 EU Member States and Norway. The study presents an overview of the important challenges faced by national authorities in their efforts to establish and verify the identity of third-country nationals within the context of various migration procedures. The study describes the national practices to address those challenges and different methods used, also in the case where documentary evidence is lacking. Moreover, the study provides an insight into the use of information management systems at national and European level to support identification and verification procedures.
Every year the EMN produces on specific topics in the field of immigration and asylum relevant to policy development at Belgian and EU level. For each of these topics, all EU Member States deliver a national report, which is analysed in a comparative synthesis report at EU level. The national reports can be consulted on the website of the European Commission via this link.