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Hi, I’m Ousmane

I left Mali for Algeria to look for work. I worked in construction and hoped for more work and better pay there.

I stayed in Algeria for six months and saved some money but as a sub-Saharan African I faced a lot of racism from the other workers, which was hard.

I have a sister in France and thought life would be better there. I left Algeria to go to Morocco and stayed there for a few months, trying to find a way to cross over the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Finally, a cousin sent me some money so that I could go on a safer and better boat. I tried three times with the boat, before being able to finally cross.

Discover my story


Ousmane’s story is inspired by a testimonial in PICUM (2020), Removed: Stories of hardship and resilience in facing deportation and its aftermath.

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Arrival in Europe

When our boat arrived on the Canary Islands, we were brought to a detention centre near the coast. There, we were detained for five days.

They asked me a lot of questions about how I got to Spain, and who helped me. All the time, I was asking for a lawyer, but I only met one when I was released and brought to mainland Spain three days later.

From mainland Spain, I made my way to France to find my sister. I was so happy to see her. I told her what happened to me, and that in the detention centre they had fingerprinted me and taken all my information.


Fingerprint control in detention

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Eurodac is a database created in 2000 to store the fingerprints of people who apply for asylum in the EU to determine which member state is responsible for processing their asylum application. The personal data of people who are apprehended for crossing an external border without proper documentation can also be stored for up to 18 months, even if they do not apply for asylum.

Eurodac is one of several migration databases that are part of the EU’s interoperability framework.



Proposed changes to Eurodac, still being negotiated by EU lawmakers, would extend from 18 months to 5 years the length of time that the data of a person apprehended at the border can be stored, to make identifying and deporting them easier. The proposals would also lower the age limit of people from whom fingerprints are required, from 14 years to 6.

In addition to fingerprints, the proposals would extend the type of information stored to facial images, biographic data, time and place of a person’s apprehension or application for international protection.

For more information, see Statewatch (2019), Data protection, immigration enforcement and fundamental rights: What the EU’s regulations on interoperability mean for people with irregular status.

To continue Ousmane’s journey
please click on the fingerprint

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Life in France

My goal was to work as an electrician. I worked in a restaurant to be able to pay for the training I would need and to help support my sister and me. I began to settle into life in France.

One day, the police stopped me at a bus station in Paris when I was on my way home and demanded my ID, for no reason at all. [1] I didn’t have any on me so they took my fingerprints on a mobile device. I didn’t have time to call my sister and no one offered to let me speak to a lawyer. I felt alone and afraid.



[1] Identity checks by the police are commonplace in France.

An investigation by the French Defenseur des droits found that young men from minority ethnic backgrounds (“perceived as black or Arab”) were 20 times more likely to be stopped by the police for identity checks than other segments of the population, and more likely to be insulted and experience violence. See Enquete sur l’acces aux droits: Relations police/population (2017).

In November 2016, France’s highest court condemned France for its practice of discriminatory profiling. See Arrets relatifs aux controles d’identites discriminatoires, 9 November 2016.

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ID check by fingerprinting

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Using Ousmane’s digital fingerprint, the police officer saw immediately that he appeared in EURODAC, because the interoperability framework’s Biometric Matching System and Common Identity Repository pool the data from multiple underlying migration systems into a single, massive, searchable database. He was able to later confirm, by contacting border authorities, that Ousmane was undocumented.



A key aim of the interoperability initiative is to facilitate more police identity checks of foreigners, whether documented or undocumented. To do this, a huge new database, the Common Identity Repository (CIR), which can store up to 300 million records, is being constructed, linking several existing and forthcoming EU migration-related databases.

The new overarching EU information system gives national police and border officials the possibility of seeing at a glance which information systems contain data about a person. If they have access rights to the underlying system that contains the data, they can go further, seeing not only that a person’s data is stored there, but also accessing the data itself.

For more information, see Statewatch (2019), Data protection, immigration enforcement and fundamental rights: What the EU’s regulations on interoperability mean for people with irregular status.

To continue Ousmane’s journey
please click on the fingerprint

View footnotes


When they took my fingerprints, the police were able to identify me based on information they already had in their information systems. They knew I was undocumented. I was immediately detained.

I spent twenty-five days in detention before being deported.


Preparation of Travel Documents

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Border officials were able to issue a passport for Ousmane and deport him because he had shown his birth certificate upon arrival in the EU, and it had been copied into Eurodac.


To continue Ousmane’s journey
please click on the tickets


I was deported on a commercial flight. I remember that it was March, still cold. I was handcuffed during the deportation. I had a full suitcase with clothes and documents in France – including my birth certificate – but I was not allowed to take it with me.

After we landed, I was escorted out of the plane by some border police officers. Then they left me alone at the airport.

I spent one week at my brother’s place and then went back to my parents’ house. My mother was so upset they had sent me back. It’s hard when you see your son starting to succeed and then coming back to a place of struggle. I often feel sad, alone, angry. It’s hard to accept what has happened.

Once I have the means, I will try to return.

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