February 14, 2008
Europe Tour? Get a Bio scan.
Do you travel frequently to Europe? The next time you do plan an outing there, you’re in for a rude shock. All nonEuropeans would need to present biometric data before crossing Europe’s borders under sweeping European Union proposals to combat illegal migration, terrorism and organized crime that are to be outlined this week. The plans would apply to citizens of the United States and all other countries that now enjoy visa-free status. This is arguably the biggest shake-up of border management in Europe since the creation of an internal travel zone. They would, however, allow EU citizens and “low risk” frequent travelers from outside the block to pass through automated, fast-track frontier checkpoints without meeting border guards. Voluntary programs for prescreening such visitors, who would register fingerprints and other data, would be beefed up. The proposals, contained in draft documents examined by the International Herald Tribune and scheduled to go to the European Commission on Wednesday. They are designed to bring the EU visa regime into line with a new era in which passports include biometric data. The commission, the EU executive, argues that migratory pressure, organized crime and terrorism are obvious challenges to the Union and the bloc’s border and visa policy needs to be upgraded. It also wants a new European Border Surveillance System to be created, to use satellites and crewless aircraft to help track the movements of suspected illegal migrants. Frequent travelers will obviously not be scanned always since a database of travelers will be managed by machines and verified quicker. Travelers from countries with a visa requirement would need to provide biometric data at European consulates before leaving their home country. Those arriving from nations not requiring visas, like the United States, would also need to submit fingerprints and a digitalized facial image.
If approved by the commission this week, the measures would need the approval of all EU states. And you thought big brother was only a TV show?