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Schengen Information System (SIS)

What is the Schengen Information System (SIS)?

The Schengen Information System (SIS) is the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. SIS enables competent national authorities, such as the police and border guards, to enter and consult alerts on persons or objects. An SIS alert does not only contain information about a particular person or object but also instructions for the authorities on what to do when the person or object has been found. Specialised national SIRENE Bureaux located in each Member State serve as single points of contact for the exchange of supplementary information and coordination of activities related to SIS alerts.

At the end of 2019, SIS contained approx. 91 million records, it was accessed 6.6 billion times and secured 283,713 hits (when a search leads to an alert and the authorities confirm it). Source:  https://www.eulisa.europa.eu

What is the purpose of the SIS?

The main purpose of SIS is to make Europe safer. The system assists the competent authorities in Europe to preserve internal security in the absence of internal border checks. The scope of SIS is defined in three legal instruments:

  1. Council Decision 2007/533/JHA (Law enforcement cooperation):
    SIS supports police and judicial cooperation by allowing competent authorities to create and consult alerts on missing persons and on persons or objects related to criminal offences.
  2. Regulation (EC) No 1986/2006 (Cooperation on vehicle registration)
    Vehicle registration services may consult SIS in order to check the legal status of the vehicles presented to them for registration. They only have access to SIS alerts on vehicles, registration certificates and number plates.
  3. Regulation (EC) No 1987/2006 (Border control cooperation):
    SIS enables border guards and visa issuing and migration authorities to enter and consult alerts on third-country nationals for the purpose of refusing their entry into or stay in the Schengen area.

Evaluations under preparation

Evaluations assess the performance of EU action. During an evaluation, a specific EU law, policy or funding programme is assessed for its effectiveness (whether it reached its objectives), its efficiency (what are the costs and benefits), its relevance (whether it responds to stakeholders' needs), its coherence (how well it works with other actions) and its EU added value (what are the benefits of acting at EU level). Evaluations findings help the Commission decide whether EU actions should be continued or changed.

More information on Evaluations in the Commission

Impact assessments under preparation

Impact assessments examine whether there is a need for EU action and analyse the possible impacts of available solutions. Impact assessments are carried out during the preparation phase, before the Commission finalises a proposal for a new law. They provide evidence to inform and support the decision-making process.

More information on Impact assessments in the Commission

For more information about completed evaluations and impact assessments, please visit our e-library documents.

This information is correct as of January 2021 and next scheduled update will be 3rd quarter 2021

How is it currently operating In Ireland ?

The Schengen Information System went live in Ireland on 15 March 2021, and enables An Garda Síochána to further improve the safety and security of the public with access to the most widely used and largest information sharing system for security and border management in Europe. 

SIS provides Garda Members and Garda Staff who use PULSE with access to real time data on specific Alerts. 

Ireland has signed up to five Articles:

  • Article 26: Persons Wanted for Arrest
  • Article 32: Missing Persons
  • Article 34: Persons Sought to Assist with Judicial Procedures
  • Article 36: Persons or Objects for Discreet Checks
  • Article 38: Objects for Seizure or Use as Evidence

Who is currently responsible for SIS in Ireland?

An Garda Síochána has responsibility for system connectivity and international communications regarding SIS II.  The national SIRENE Bureau is located at Garda Headquarters. The SIRENE Bureau is supported by the N.SIS Office, also located in Garda Headquarters.

What types of information are shared by Ireland?

Ireland has opted to participate in certain specific parts of the SIS II.  Ireland will send and receive SIS II information (termed ‘Alerts’) on persons and objects; for example persons wanted for criminal purposes, missing persons and objects which have been stolen or are wanted as evidence for a judicial purpose.

Examples under each category:

Since go-live, Ireland has been sending and receiving Alerts under the following five SIS II provisions (Articles of the Council Decision 2007/533/JHA);

1.Art 26 - Alerts on persons wanted for arrest for surrender purposes.  Art 26 primarily refers to persons in respect of whom a European Arrest Warrant exists.

2.Art 32 - Alerts on missing persons who need to be placed under protection and/or whose whereabouts need to be ascertained.

3.Art 34 - Alerts on persons sought to assist with a judicial procedure.  This may include witnesses or suspects subject to a criminal prosecution.

4.Art 36 - Alerts on persons and/or objects for discreet checks

5.Art 38 - Alerts on objects for seizure or for use as evidence in criminal proceedings

What are the benefits of sharing information to other member countries of SIS?

The key benefits are enhanced security for people and greater efficiency in law enforcement systems.  This is achieved, in the majority of cases, through the automatic, simultaneous and immediate exchange of information across all countries using SIS II. 

For example, records in regard to all persons sought for arrest and surrender for extradition across Europe will be automatically checked each time a member of An Garda Síochána conducts a name search on the Garda PULSE system or when a member of the Irish Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INIS) conducts a passport scan at a point of entry to Ireland.  

Equally, all missing person records and lost or stolen object and vehicle records created by An Garda Síochána will be immediately available to those other countries using SIS II when an official from that country conducts a search in his/her national systems.

In 2020: 

The system was accessed over 3.7 billion times during 2020. 

At the end of 2020, there were 93.4 million alerts stored in the central system. 

Nearly 210.000 hits on foreign alerts were processed by the SIRENE Bureaux during the year.

The total figure of alerts on persons corresponded to 964,720.

What are the benefits to Ireland in receiving information from other member countries of SIS?

The key benefit is enhanced security; that several agencies involved in law enforcement will have ready access to data from across Europe, data which will be consulted automatically during checks on certain national systems in Ireland.

Who do I contact if I have concerns questions regarding data protection and SIS?

An Garda Síochána has a dedicated Data Protection Unit that manages queries and requests regarding personal data on behalf of the organisation, including in respect of SIS II. Data protection queries regarding SIS II, including requests for access can be sent to dataprotection@garda.ie. Any individual seeking access to personal information held by An Garda Síochána, including information held on SIS II, should complete a Data Access Request Form (F20), which is available along with other information via the following link: https://www.garda.ie/en/about-us/online-services/data-protection-foi-police-certificates/an-garda-siochana-and-data-protection.html

What safeguards are in place to ensure the data shared under SIS is legally and correctly dealt with?

Any person who believes that his or her personal information are recorded in the Schengen Information System (SIS II) can make an access request to any of the contracting parties to the Schengen acquis. The right of access is complemented by the right to have inaccurate data rectified, and the right to have personal data erased where it has been stored without a lawful basis. 

Requests for access, rectification or erasure of personal data processed by An Garda Síochána using SIS II can be made by submitting a Data Access Request Form (F20) to the An Garda Síochána Data Protection Unit (dataprotection@garda.ie). Further information regarding access requests, including a link to the Data Access Request Form, is available via the following link: https://www.garda.ie/en/about-us/online-services/data-protection-foi-police-certificates/an-garda-siochana-and-data-protection.html 

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is the national supervisory authority for data protection matters in Ireland, and has oversight of the processing of personal data by An Garda Síochána related to SIS II. The DPC can also be contacted via their website regarding any concerns in respect of the processing of personal data as part of SIS II: https://www.dataprotection.ie/

When was it introduced?

SIS went live in Ireland on 15 March 2021.

What difference does it make?

The use of SIS II makes no perceivable difference to the public in terms of reporting crimes and offences to An Garda Síochána and in terms of going about their daily lives.  The significant difference is the increased amount of information available to members of An Garda Síochána, and to other authorised users, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the decision-making as circumstances dictate.

Do the family of a missing person have to consent to the sharing of the data?

Families of a missing person do not have to provide specific consent in regard to the sharing of data.  Each missing person report recorded by An Garda Síochána on the Garda PULSE system will automatically result in a simultaneous SIS II Alert being created with equivalent data regarding that missing person.

Will the family of missing persons be kept updated in relation to information on SIS?

Families of missing persons will be kept updated in relation to their missing relative as is current practice.  Such updates will include any information from SIS II.  Information from SIS II will depend on the circumstances of the case and, in particular, the age/vulnerability etc. of the missing person.

How will SIS be in the future?

The changes proposed in 2016 by the European Commission will strengthen significantly the system. 

In June 2018, the co-legislators reached political agreement on the new SIS package. The new functionalities in SIS will be implemented in different stages, with a requirement for the work to be completed by 2021. 

The changes will entail enhancements in the following areas: 

Biometrics: SIS will contain palm prints, fingerprints, facial images and DNA concerning, for example, missing persons to confirm their identity.

Counter-terrorism: More information will be shared on persons and objects involved in terrorism-related activities, allowing the authorities of the Member States to better pursue and prevent serious crimes and terrorism.

Vulnerable persons: Competent authorities will have the possibility of entering preventive alerts in the system to protect certain categories of vulnerable persons (missing persons, children at risk of abduction or potential victims of trafficking in human beings or gender-based violence).

Irregular migration: Return decisions and entry bans will be part of the information shared in the system to enhance their effective enforcement.

Enhanced access for EU Agencies: Europol will now have access to all alert categories in the SIS while the European Border and Coast Guard Agency operational teams will be able to access SIS for the purpose of carrying out their tasks in the hotspots.

Moreover, the introduction since March 2018 of an AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) in SIS, and the resulting possibility of making searches using fingerprints, makes it even more difficult for criminals to move unnoticed across Europe.

In which countries is SIS in operation?

As of July 2019, SIS is in operation in 30 European countries, including 26 EU Member States (only Cyprus is not yet connected to SIS) and 4 Schengen Associated Countries (Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland). 

EU Member States with special arrangements: 

Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia are not yet part of the area without internal border checks (the 'Schengen area'). However, since August 2018, Bulgaria and Romania started using fully SIS. A Council Decision is still required for the lifting of checks at the internal borders of these two Member States. In the case of Croatia, there are still some restrictions regarding its use of Schengen-wide SIS alerts for the purposes of refusing entry into or stay in the Schengen area. Those restrictions will be lifted as soon as Croatia has become a part of the area without internal border checks. 

Post Brexit the United Kingdom will no longer participate in SIS but continues to avail of other channels of cooperation.

Cyprus is not yet connected to SIS. Cyprus has a temporary derogation from joining the Schengen area and is not yet connected to SIS.