Data to Deport: EU Migration Databases

Deportation is, for many people, a life-changing and devastating experience. Far from a return “home”, it often means being violently uprooted from a life they have built through great sacrifice. Many will try again to return to Europe. For those who are not – or cannot, for different reasons, be – deported, the threat of possible deportation looms over them constantly, a terrible weight of uncertainty and insecurity.


And yet deportation is the centrepiece of the EU’s migration agenda. Over the past few years, the EU has consistently focused on increasing the number of people deported – often at the expense of their most basic rights.


This interactive story board focuses on the human impact of one specific aspect of the machinery that has been created to fulfil this goal: the EU interoperability regulations, which establish new centralised databases storing data of all third country nationals in the EU with the aim of facilitating deportations.


These regulations are themselves deeply discriminatory, perpetuating harmful and false view of migrants by mixing the goals of immigration control and combatting serious crimes like terrorism.

Still, to understand the full impact of these regulations and the apparatus they create, we must see them alongside other legal proposals that have been started (and, in some cases, completed) in recent years, intended to reduce the rights of foreigners and investing massive amounts of resources and personnel into deporting people from the European Union.


  • The 2018 proposal for a revised, or recast, EU Return Directive justifies more use of detention, curtails the right to effective remedy, and speeds up return procedures.
  • The 2019 reform of the EU border agency (Frontex) massively increases the agency’s capacity and powers in the area of returns.
  • In 2020, the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed to build an enormous new detention system at the EU external borders, and to further cut safeguards that protect people against possible human rights violations when they face deportation.

You are invited to discover some of the ways that the EU’s massive migration information systems are likely to affect individuals by following the experiences of Ousmane, Anna and María.

How do the new EU regulations on interoperability lead to discriminatory policing?


The EU’s new interoperability regulations will store the personal and biometric data of every non-EU citizen who comes to Europe – to work, study, seek asylum, etc. – in three new centralised databases. These databases create unjustified links between existing migration and criminal law systems. The EU says this will improve its response to irregular migration and serious crimes like terrorism – but there is little evidence of the need or likely benefits of this approach, and a great risk of harm. These databases represent the growing use of large-scale IT systems for immigration control.