Europe: EU to strengthen Schengen Information System

To step up the fight against terrorism and illegal migration, the European Parliament and European Council negotiators on June 12 adopted three regulations to update the Schengen Information System (SIS). These are in the field of police cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, in the field of border checks and for the return of illegally staying non-EU nationals.

“SIS is the spine of information exchange in Europe,” said Rapporteur Carlos Coelho (EPP, PT). “The improvements voted on by the Parliament and agreed today with Council prepare the System for the future, improve security and ensure freedom of movement. SIS will remain the biggest, most used, best-implemented database in the area of freedom, security and justice, while delivering more security to our citizens now.”

The main points of the agreement include the creation of an alert system in which EU member states are obliged to share the details of a terrorist act with all other member states. Member states will also be obliged to create new preventive alerts on children at risk of gender-based violence, such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages or parental abduction and alerts on foreign fighters and those who have been radicalised.

As regards data, the agreement is for the increased use of biometrics, including on fingerprints, palm prints, facial images and DNA with all national law-enforcement authorities. Also the SIS will contain all deportation decisions and will inform national authorities whether the period for “leaving the EU voluntarily” has expired.

Currently, there is no system in place to automatically provide information on return decisions, which are now shared on a voluntary basis.

“Member States at the moment don’t exchange information on whether a third country national has received a return decision or not,” said Rapporteur Jeroen Lenaers (EPP, NL). “Due to this lack of information exchange, a third country national with the obligation to return can easily avoid this obligation, by going to another member state. Return policies should be more efficient, otherwise it will be very difficult to maintain support for receiving those asylum seekers that are in need of our help”.

Before entering into force, the agreed text needs to be formally approved by the Civil Liberties Committee, European Parliament as a whole and the Council.

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