Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt (SDE) wants to set up an automatic register of people staying in different types of accommodation in Estonia. The register is intended to help the authorities fight terrorism, catch people who are on the EU’s most wanted list, or who are in Estonia illegally.
Since Estonia is part of the Schengen area, and as the movement of individuals is not registered on the area’s internal borders, the main source of information about people staying in Estonia are hotels’ guest forms. Such guest registration cards have to be filled out by people who are not citizens of an EU member state, a member state of the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, as well as by family members of nationals of these entities.
In accordance with the plan put forward by the ministry, a system would be created where information about individuals registered as guests would be forwarded to an automatic register within at least 24 hours of registration.
The automatic system would then check the person’s data against entries in various registers such as the police’s database, the national register of persons banned from entering Estonia, and Interpol’s database. If no matches are found, the person’s data would be deleted within the next 24 hours. In the event of a match, the information would be checked further by the relevant authorities.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, the present system is ineffective for a number of reasons. First, the hotel visitor form is filled out by hand, which is time-consuming and often results in the text being unreadable. Second, law enforcement authorities already need to know that a person of interest to them stayed at a specific accommodation establishment to go after the registration form. Entering the information in machine-readable form would make its processing more effective.
An additional part of the plan is keeping guest information available. While in the central register an individual’s data as a rule would be deleted within 24 hours, accommodation establishments would have to keep the information available for two years to make later checks possible.
There are plans for three parallel systems to process the information, including hotels’ already existing information systems, an online app, and a smart phone app, respectively.
According to calculations by the ministry, the introduction of the new system would allow hotels and their staff to save approximately €2 million a year by reducing the administrative burden. The system would cost €674,000 in its first year, and its maintenance some €51,000 a year. The regulation would enter into effect starting October 2018.
Editor: Dario Cavegn