EU smart borders plan helpul, but no substitute for the human touch
Posted, October 25, 2011 @ 17:00
Strasbourg, 25th October 2011 -- Proposals put forward today by the European Commission to introduce a new 'smart borders' scheme may help to protect the external borders of the EU but they must not be seen as a substitute for 'old fashioned' techniques, Timothy Kirkhope MEP, European Conservatives and Reformists group spokesman on justice and home affairs, said today.
The commission has published a communication (white paper) which would see the introduction of an Entry and Exit system (EES) and a Registered Travellers Programme (RTP). The EES would record the time and place of entry and length of stay in a database which would be available to all immigration authorities. The RTP would allow certain pre-checked frequent travellers to the EU speedier access. The programme is similar to one already in action in the United States.
The commission's paper now kick-starts a debate within the EU as to whether the new system would add value. Mr Kirkhope believes that it may present a new tool for combating illegal and overstaying migrants, but he warns against a reliance on electronic systems at border crossings in place of traditional tried and tested methods. He also said that the new scheme would do little to combat the current issue of migrants who do not enter the Schengen space using conventional means or crossings.
Mr Kirkhope, a former UK Immigration Minister, said:
"These proposals may provide another useful tool for improving security at the EU's borders. However, we must assess whether the potential benefits will justify the layout for them.
"Not every would-be migrant knocks on the front door.
"As part of a wider package of reforms to the Schengen zone, these plans could be effective. However, they will not be a panacea to the current migratory challenges facing the EU.
"The problem with this reliance on digital technology is that we all assume the computer cannot lie. However, when it is possible to buy a biometric identity relatively cheaply all around the world, we must also ask if it will be entirely effective.
"Computers store information and create databases but they can never be a substitute for the human touch and old fashioned techniques when it comes to managing our borders."