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Ó Snodaigh - EU plan for biometric documents must not be rubber-stamped

11 December, 2003

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has reacted angrily to the Government's plan to squash Dáil debate on EU Regulations requiring all visas and residence permits to contain "biometric" data (fingerprints and face scans), in a bid to fast-track their endorsement before the Christmas break. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"The Government has been engaged in a systematic process of rubber stamping a series of major EU proposals increasing judicial integration between member states throughout the autumn session. Sinn Féin has vigorously and consistently opposed this. But the proposals that will be taken without debate next week are of a different magnitude altogether. They have very serious implications for the rights and freedoms of everyone in living in or hoping to visit the EU.

"The draft EU Regulations will make fingerprints and facial images compulsory for visas and residence permits for third country nationals by 2005. It is recognised that the extension of biometric documents and passports for EU citizens will follow. This data will be held on national and EU-wide databases. So far there is no guarantee that this data will not be made available to non-EU states. This is the architecture necessary for universal surveillance. It has more to do with political and social control than public security, and as such it is not acceptable in a democratic society.

"Consenting to this measure means accepting the slide towards totalitarianism that has been accelerating in democratic states in the post-September 11 period. Sinn Féin will not consent. We will make every effort to block these measures, however the Government's in-built majority ensures that they will get their way regardless of the consequences for our rights, unless the Irish people stand up and make themselves heard. But make no mistake, the Government's squashing of public debate on these proposals is meant to silence any such dissent." ENDS

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