The New Humanitarian berichtet über die Einführung eines neuen biometrischen Informationssystems, MIDAS, das in Niger unter Federführung von FRONTEX als erstem Land eingesetzt wird.

European money and technical assistance have flowed into Niger for several years, funding beefed-up border security and supporting controversial legislation that criminalises “migrant trafficking” and has led to a sharp fall in the registered number of people travelling through the country to reach Libya – down from 298,000 in 2016 to 50,000 in 2018. […]

Niger on the frontline

Niger is a key country for Europe’s twin strategic goals of migration control and counter-terrorism – with better data increasingly playing a part in both objectives.

The Makalondi police station-cum-immigration post on Niger’s southern border with Burkina Faso is on the front line of this approach – one link in the ever-expanding chain that is the EU’s information-driven response to border management and security.

When TNH visited in December 2018, the hot Sunday afternoon torpor evaporated when three international buses pulled up and disgorged dozens of travellers into the parking area.

They were mostly Burkinabès and Nigeriens who travelled abroad for work and, as thousands of their fellow citizens do every week, took the 12-hour drive from the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, to the Niger capital, Niamey.

As policemen searched their bags, the passengers waited to be registered with the new biometric Migration Information and Data Analysis System, or MIDAS, which captures fingerprints and facial images for transmission to a central database in Niamey.

MIDAS has been developed by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) as a rugged, low-cost solution to monitor migration flows.

“In Niger, we are the pioneers,” said Ismael Soumana, the police commissioner of Makalondi. A thin, smiling man, Soumana proudly showed off the eight new machines installed since September at the entry and exit desks of a one-storey prefabricated building. Each workstation was equipped with fingerprint and documents scanners, a small camera, and a PC.

Data sharing

The data from Makalondi is stored on the servers of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DTS), Niger’s border police. After Makalondi and Gaya, on the Benin-Niger border, IOM has ambitious plans to instal MIDAS in at least eight more border posts by mid-2020 – although deteriorating security conditions due to jihadist-linked attacks could interrupt the rollout.

IOM provides MIDAS free of charge to at least 20 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Its introduction in Niger was funded by Japan, while the EU paid for an initial assessment study and the electrical units that support the system. In addition to the border posts, two mobile MIDAS-equipped trucks, financed by Canada, will be deployed along the desert trails to Libya or Algeria in the remote north.

MIDAS is owned by the Nigerien government, which will be “the only one able to access the data,” IOM told TNH. But it is up to Niamey with whom they share that information.

MIDAS is already linked to PISCES (Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System), a biometric registration arm of the US Department of State installed at Niamey international airport and connected to INTERPOL’s alert lists.

Niger hosts the first of eight planned “Risk Analysis Cells” in Africa set up by Frontex and based inside its border police directorate. The unit collects data on cross-border crime and security threats and, as such, will rely on systems such as PISCES and MIDAS – although Frontex insists no “personal data” is collected and used in generating its crime statistics.

A new office is being built for the Niger border police directorate by the United States to house both systems.
The West African Police Information System, a huge criminal database covering 16 West African countries, funded by the EU and implemented by INTERPOL, could be another digital library of fingerprints linking to MIDAS.

The New Humanitarian | 06.06.2019

Biometrics: The new frontier of EU migration policy in Niger