Each year, a large number of migrant children coming to the European Union disappear without a trace. Many of them risk ending up in the hands of traffickers. Taking these children’s fingerprints at the European border can prevent them from going missing or from becoming victims of human trafficking. However, taking a child’s fingerprints should be done in full respect of children’s rights.

Now that smugglers increasingly target very young children, AMBER Alert Europe welcomes the Commission’s legislative proposal to use fingerprinting identification for children from the age of six and include them in biometric database Eurodac.

“Taking a child’s fingerprints can greatly contribute to that child’s protection”, says Frank Hoen, founder of AMBER Alert Europe. “When children coming to the European Union are properly identified and registered at the border, competent law enforcement authorities are able to keep them out of traffickers’ reach and even help unite them with family members. This way they can receive the protection and care they need.”

Safeguards to protect children’s rights

In order to guarantee that children’s rights are protected throughout the fingerprinting process, law enforcement authorities should have strong procedural safeguards in place. AMBER Alert Europe supports the following safeguards as suggested by the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Prior to having their fingerprints taken, children should receive an explanation appropriate to their age so that they understand why their fingerprints are needed. During the procedure, an adult representative or guardian must be present to help the child feel comfortable as well as ensure that the child’s rights are respected. Lastly, each law enforcement authority should have experts specifically trained to engage with children. These experts can help identify children in an especially vulnerable situation such as victims of human trafficking.