Border guards ‘should take child fingerprints’

The identification system used to track border crossings of asylum seekers in the European Union could lower the minimum age at which a child’s fingerprints could be taken.

For years the minimum age for fingerprints to be loaded into the Eurodac system was 14. Now, several EU countries want to lower the threshold to 6-years-old, an age at which some believe will help better track the tide of immigration flowing into some countries.

Sweden argues that entering more asylum-seeking youths into the EU system is a win-win situation for everybody.

“We should lower the minimum age for fingerprints in order to enter more of the asylum-seeking children who come here alone into the register,” said Bengt Hellström, boss at Sweden’s Immigration Board’s Eurodac office. “Not to just register them, but to look after the child’s best interests.”

Many children who seek asylum alone are used by asylum smugglers without scruples, he said. Those who smuggle children to the EU, often relatives, can earn money on the young asylum seekers.

The minimum age for fingerprints has been debated before by the EU. After a meeting in Brussels, it was decided that starting June 28, 2009, all children 12-years-old and up will have to leave their fingerprints in the new biometric EU passports.