A European Parliament vote to introduce US-style ‘low cost’ visas has been condemned by the Left group over concerns that it will be instrumentalised in the ‘fight against irregular migration and terrorism’, threatening personal data rights and civil liberties in the process.

As part of the wider ‘Smart Borders’ package, the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will apply to all Third Country Nationals (3CN) who are not required to have a visa in order to enter the Schengen area. All 3CNs will be assessed upon individual security threats, irregular migration risk and even for spreading epidemics through a series of personal questions and checks across several databases.

The legislation also makes it mandatory for all carriers to verify the possession of a valid ETIAS visa in order to allow a person to travel.

Serious concerns have also been raised regarding civil liberties given the proposal’s creation of a watchlist under Europol’s control. Data protection risks, including profiling and the possible transfer of data to third countries under special circumstances are also troublesome.

Much of the negotiations took place behind closed doors, and were hurriedly agreed through backroom deals with little or no scrutiny from MEPs in the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee.

Commenting on the vote in the Parliament today, Marie-Christine Vergiat (Front de Gauche, France) said:

“ETIAS is one of the last pieces of the jigsaw in the construction of Fortress Europe. By erecting electronic walls in addition to the physical walls and barbed wire fences we already have, our rights and freedoms are further undermined.”

“ETIAS is a ‘low-cost’ visa in all but name; a ‘travel authorisation’ based on the US and Australian models.
“The data amassed is much more intrusive than necessary for a visa, and this severely threatens data protection.

“The EU is dancing to the tune of the far-right without having fully assessed the effectiveness of the proposals. And for what? Just so that a few arms and security lobbyists get a bumper pay day?” she said.

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