Deal on faster exchange of non-EU nationals’ criminal records

Police 2018

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Plans to create an EU database to enable EU countries to exchange non-EU citizens’ criminal records faster, were informally agreed with Council negotiators on Tuesday.

Currently, national authorities often rely solely on data on non-EU nationals’ convictions available from their own national criminal record systems. The new centralised database on third country nationals will improve the exchange of information on non-EU nationals’ criminal records throughout the EU and contribute to the EU-wide fight against cross-border crime and terrorism.

The database will complement the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), which EU countries already use to exchange information on EU citizens’ previous convictions.

The new ECRIS Third Country National (ECRIS-TCN) system, will:

  • enable national authorities to establish quickly whether any EU member state holds criminal records on a non-EU citizen,
  • contain data such as names, addresses, fingerprints and facial images (which, however, may only be used to confirm the identity of a non-EU national who has been identified based on other data), and

Parliament and Council negotiators agreed that in addition to judges and prosecutors in EU countries, Europol, Eurojust and the future European Public Prosecutor’s Office will also have access to ECRIS and the Third Country National system.

Dual nationals’ data

The ECRIS-TCN system will also include data on dual nationals who possess the nationality of a third country and of an EU country to ensure that the system is completely reliable and that individuals cannot deliberately hide past convictions simply by having two passports. The fingerprints of dual nationals can only be included in the system if they have been collected in accordance with national law during a criminal proceeding. Furthermore, MEPs managed to ensure that the benefits of including dual nationals’ information in the ECRIS-TCN will be assessed in the near future.

Quotes

Rapporteur Daniel Dalton (ECR, UK) said: “Sharing information across borders is essential to crack down on crime in Europe. But current laws make it harder to access the criminal records of non-EU nationals. Our citizens will be less safe if we leave this gaping legal loophole wide open any longer. With time ticking on this matter, we need to move forward as quickly as possible.”

Next steps

The agreed text now needs to be formally approved by the Civil Liberties Committee, Parliament as a whole and the Council before entering into force.

Background

ECRIS was put in place in 2012 to exchange information on criminal convictions in the EU. However, using the current system to check the criminal records of a non-EU citizen is cumbersome and inefficient. For example, according to the European Commission, in 2014, national authorities used information available in other countries’ criminal records only in less than five percent of conviction cases of third country nationals.

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