EC: Renewed Schengen Information System enters into operation

The upgraded Schengen Information System (SIS) enters into operation on March 7, the European Commission (EC) said.

SIS is the largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe, the EC said.

It provides information on wanted or missing persons, third-country nationals with no legal right to stay in the EU and lost or stolen objects (for example cars, firearms, boats and identity documents).

“The renewed SIS is the foundation of the most advanced border management system in the world that we are building. Together with the Entry/Exit System (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), SIS will be part of the interoperability architecture,” the EC said. 

The renewed SIS is being enhanced to include new categories of alerts, biometrics such as palm prints, fingermarks, and DNA records for missing persons, and additional tools to combat crime and terrorism.

“The upgrade is important as it will also allow for preventive alerts to protect vulnerable persons and deter irregular migration. These upgrades aim to provide national authorities with more complete and reliable information to enhance security and border management in Europe,” the statement said.

The EC listed the upgraded features, including enhanced information sharing and cooperation. New categories of alerts and more data will be shared through SIS, ensuring that more complete and more reliable information is available to the national authorities. Clearer rules and improved structures have been introduced for the exchange of information through the national contact points (SIRENE Offices).

Another feature is new possibilities to locate and identify persons sought and strengthen external border controls. In addition to photographs and fingerprints, SIS will contain new types of biometrics (such as palm prints, fingermarks and palmmarks, as well as DNA records – but only in relation to missing persons) and other information to locate and identify people registered in the system.

The system now has additional tools to combat criminality and terrorism, the EC said. New inquiry check alerts will allow national authorities to collect targeted information on suspects of serious crime or terrorism. For example, identification documents, information about the car that they are using will be stored in SIS. There will be alerts on “unknown wanted persons”, containing only the prints of unknown perpetrators that are discovered at the scenes of terrorist offences or serious crimes.

It also has additional tools to protect missing and vulnerable persons. National authorities will be able to issue preventive alerts in the system to protect certain categories of vulnerable persons (children at risk of abduction or potential victims of terrorism, trafficking in human beings, gender-based violence, or armed conflict/hostilities), in addition to existing alerts on missing persons.

Another new feature is additional tools to prevent and deter irregular migration, the EC said.

Return decisions will be part of the information shared in the system to improve the effective enforcement of these decisions.

Member states will be required to create an alert in SIS each time they issue a return decision on a third-country national with no legal right to stay in the EU, allowing them to actively follow up whether the returnee effectively leaves the EU territory.

It will pave the way for mutual recognition of return decisions between member states, as proposed by EC President Ursula von der Leyen in her letter with targeted actions ahead of the February European Council, the EC said.

The system features enhanced use of SIS by EU Agencies. Europol and national immigration authorities now have access to all alert categories in SIS.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) operational teams have been granted access to SIS (implementation is still ongoing), the EC said.

SIS has strict requirements on data quality and data protection. The system only contains data on people and objects wanted in EU countries and Schengen associated countries.

National authorities supervise the application of the data protection rules in their respective countries, while the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) monitors how the data protection rules are being applied in the central system managed by eu-LISA.

The EC said that as of March 7, the renewed SIS is operational in 30 countries throughout Europe (26 EU member states and the Schengen associated countries). The connection of Cyprus to SIS in summer 2023 will further extend security cooperation throughout the entire EU, the EC said.

(Photo: VOA)

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