The Brussels government is working on plans for a range of aggressive new border-control measures designed to prevent mass migration into Europe - particularly from points south and east.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that draft EU laws will be put forward for consideration by member states which would implement fingerprint or iris scans at all EU ports of entry and exit. EU citizens could opt for a fast channel involving the same scan, or for a non-biometric conventional check by a border guard; but non-EU citizens would have no option.
On top of the border scans, the draft proposals called for tougher visa-issuing processes at external consulates, again including biometric checks. The insistence on shared biometrics is intended to prevent repeated attempts to enter the EU illegally. At present, many migrants who are turned down for visas or turned back at borders simply keep trying at different national consulates or frontiers. Should they subsequently be deported, these individuals often return by one means or another, sometimes many times over. A biometric database of known illegals would make the process of rejection cheaper and more certain.
According to the WSJ, the border scans would also be required on exiting the EU. This would permit the levying of fines on those who had overstayed their leave to remain - even if they were of a nationality requiring no visa for EU entry, such as Americans. EU nations would share information, so an overstaying visitor couldn't evade payment by departing from a different country. America for its own part already employs similar border checks.
EU officials were keen to emphasise that visitors from the States and other wealthy nations enjoying a close chumship with Europe would not be significantly inconvenienced. However, travellers from regions under a tough visa regime would have to jump through more hoops, and in cases judged to be "high risk" would be required to post a cash bond which would only be returned on leaving Europe.
Simultaneously, Brussels has also announced plans to stave off immigrants who do not move through established ports of entry at all. An EU press release issued today described the new EUROSUR surveillance scheme, which uses the same kind of ideas embodied in the American Eye-of-Sauron-esque border scan towers now being trialled.
In essence, EUROSUR would seek to deploy new, networked sensor technologies so as to detect small boats full of wannabe-Europeans while still far from their destinations. Initially, national surveillance centres would be set up "in the Member States located at the southern and eastern external borders of the EU".
Then "satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, etc" would be used to compile "a common pre-frontier intelligence picture". Brussels says that there's no particular rush regarding the north Atlantic or the Baltic, for instance. There isn't any worry about a possible horde of migrants out of Iceland or Canada.
Rather, owing to "current migratory pressure", initial efforts "should be limited to the Mediterranean Sea, the southern Atlantic Ocean (Canary Islands) and the Black Sea".
The drafters note that these measures could prevent deaths among migrants crowded aboard unseaworthy boats, and could also help to cut down on smuggling, terrorism and other kinds of crossborder crime. They make no bones, however, about the fact that the main goal is to prevent poor people from Africa and Asia moving to Europe in search of a better life. ®