Britain may have to take in migrants from EU to gain access to asylum seeker databases

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel on Tuesday
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel on Tuesday - Gareth Fuller/PA

Britain could face EU demands to take migrants from the bloc in return for the UK gaining access to European intelligence databases on asylum seekers.

Labour is planning to seek a new deal to access the EU’s fingerprinting system, known as Eurodac, which is used to identify asylum seekers and illegal migrants on the continent.

This would enable the Border Force to identify where migrants may have previously applied and been rejected in Europe before coming to the UK.

Labour sources said this would enable immigration officials to fast-track any application for asylum and quickly remove them, ideally to their own country.

However, EU diplomats are concerned that the UK could use its access as a “trojan horse” to try to return migrants to the EU by arguing that they should have claimed asylum in Europe before reaching the UK.

Diplomatic sources told The Telegraph the EU’s response would be that any access to Eurodac and other databases would have to be part of a broader conversation.

“The big question is what’s in it for us?” said one source.

Possible precursor to wider returns deal

It is believed by sources in Brussels that Labour’s plan to negotiate access to Eurodac would be a precursor to a wider returns deal.

Brussels would likely listen to proposals for a specific returns deal based around family reunification and unaccompanied children. But the source said: “Again, what’s in it for us?”

Sir Keir Starmer has said he wants to negotiate a replacement for the pre-Brexit Dublin agreement, where the UK returned some migrants to the EU but also accepted some from the bloc with family connections to the UK and unaccompanied children. Eurodac underpinned the Dublin agreement which ended once the UK left the EU after Brexit.

However, he has said a Labour Government would not participate in a wider EU quota “pact” where refugees are redistributed to all member states based on the size of their economies, population and own asylum caseloads. Instead, Labour figures have insisted any returns deal would be limited to unaccompanied children.

Sir Keir and Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary, are planning to forge a new partnership with Europol to combat people smugglers as part of its new Border Security Command.

They have already launched a recruitment campaign for hundreds of extra officers for the National Crime Agency, Border Force and MI5 who will be deployed across Europe to stop people smugglers.

The new partnership with Europol would aim to put “Britain’s police at the heart of pan-European efforts” to counter people smuggling, according to a Labour policy document. “As part of this agreement we will also seek to negotiate access to Eurodac,” it said.

It added that Border Force officials had “lamented the loss of Eurodac as with it the UK could identify those previously rejected including for reasons connected with serious criminality and fast-track them for removal”.

Labour sources said they were not seeking to use Eurodac for a returns agreement but instead simply seeking access to the information.

However, a EU diplomat said: “In practice that [access to Eurodac] would probably be feasible as part of a package that also includes application of other relevant regulations by the UK.”

Asked if that meant a returns deal, they added: “Not necessarily, but the new EU migration pact works as a package.”

James Cleverly, the shadow home secretary, said: “The EU don’t give anything away for free, and it is always the British people who end up footing the bill. We always said Labour’s plan to do a deal with the EU would mean quota sharing and here we are. At the very first hurdle, Labour have fallen flat.”

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