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Greece's EU-funded ‘biometric policing plan’ violates privacy rights, campaigners warn

A NEW EU-funded “biometric policing plan” for Greece violates privacy standards and will increase discrimination, rights groups said today.

The project, by which police will use hand-held devices to gather biometric information from people “on a vast scale” and cross-check it against police, immigration and private-sector databases, is billed as a measure to control immigration.

But Human Rights Watch and internet privacy campaigners Homo Digitalis said it would “most likely facilitate and increase the unlawful practice of racial profiling” across Greece, noting that “in recent years, Greek police have carried out abusive, and often discriminatory, stops and searches of migrants and other marginalised populations.”

Human Rights Watch senior crisis and conflict researcher Belkis Wille said: “The European Commission is funding a programme that will help Greek police to target and harass refugees, asylum-seekers and minority groups.”

The “smart policing” programme is being developed by a private telecoms transnational, Intracom Telecom.

Police will receive smart devices with integrated software to enable them to scan vehicle licence plates, collect fingerprints and scan faces.

People’s biometric data can be immediately compared with data already stored in 20 databases held by national and international authorities.

The charities believe the policy contravenes Greek and EU law.

Greece is among several EU member states, alongside Croatia and Poland, which has been accused of “illegal pushbacks,” the forced return of refugees to another country.

Refugee rights groups have accused its coastguard of loading asylum-seekers who make it to Greece onto flimsy boats and forcing them back out to sea.

Poland, which was accused of forcing refugees who crossed the Belarusian border from November back across over barbed wire, said today that it had “foiled” 600 attempted crossings so far in January.

Others who made it have been detained in holding camps near the border. Countries of origin include Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The EU’s funding for the Libyan Coastguard, which is used by European countries to seize refugees in the Mediterranean and return them to Libya, was also under the spotlight today as a UN report said 12,000 detainees were being held officially in prisons and detention centres in the north African country — but “thousands more” were being held illegally.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said refugees were being held in “inhumane conditions in facilities controlled by armed groups.”

The UN’s Libya mission said it continues to document “arbitrary detention, torture [and] sexual violence” in Libyan holding camps.

Mr Guterres said: “Female and male migrants and refugees continue to face heightened risks of rape, sexual harassment and trafficking by armed groups, transnational smugglers and traffickers as well as officials from the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, which operates under the Ministry of Interior.”

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