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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 2018, SIS contained approx. 82 million records, it was accessed 6.1 billion times and secured 267,239 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 July 2019 and next scheduled update will be November 2019

How is it currently operating In Ireland ?

Currently, Ireland is not connected to SIS II.  Ireland, via An Garda Síochána, is currently running a project to connect Ireland to SIS II.  The aim of the project is to go technically live in December 2019 and to be operationally connected with the SIS II data-base in early 2020.

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 will be located at Garda Headquarters.

What types of information will be 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.

This was agreed under Council Decision of 28th February 2002 concerning Irelands request to take part in the Schengen acquis (2002/192/EC https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32002D0192&from=EN)

Examples under each category:

At go-live, Ireland will send and receive 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 or specific 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.  There were 39,000 alerts on SIS II for persons wanted for arrest at the end of 2018.  Automated and integrated SIS II searches will assist in locating these people in this country. 

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.  There were 38,000 missing adult records and 77,000 missing minor records shared on SIS II during 2018.

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?

The Data Protection Commission has oversight responsibility for the application of the data protection elements of SIS In Ireland.  The DPC may be contacted by web-form through the DPC website; https://www.dataprotection.ie  Telephone and postal address details are also provide on the website

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) may make an access request to any of the contracting parties to the Schengen acquis.  The right of access is complemented by the right to obtain the correction of the personal data when they are factually inaccurate or incomplete, and the right to ask for their deletion when they have been unlawfully stored. 

Any individual seeking access to personal information held by An Garda Síochána about them should complete the Data Access Request form (F20). This will apply to SIS for Ireland when SIS II goes live here, which is proposed for 2020.  Further information is available on Data Protection Commission

Comprehensive information on access rights to data processed in SIS II is available from ‘Guide for exercising the right of access.’

When will it be introduced?

Ireland is due to connect with the SIS II data-base in the first half of 2020.

What difference will it make?

The use of SIS II will make 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 will be 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.

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

Families of a missing person will 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.

What volume of data is currently shared by Ireland?

Currently, Ireland is not connected to SIS II.  Ireland will connect with the SIS II data-base in early 2020. 

What volume of data is it anticipated will be shared by SIS II in the first year of operation?  

The following is an estimate of the volumes of alerts which Ireland may exchange during the first 12 months of operation: 

  • 100 alerts related to Article 26 of the Council Decision 2007/533/JHA (persons wanted for arrest for surrender or for extradition purposes);
  • 8,600 alerts related to Article 32 of the Council Decision (alerts on missing persons);
  • 100 alerts related to Article 34 of the Council Decision (alerts on persons sought to assist with a judicial procedure);
  • 500 alerts related to Article 36 of the Council Decision (alerts on persons and objects for discreet checks or specific checks); and
  • 15,000 alerts related to Article 38 of the Council Decision (alerts on objects and for seizure or use as evidence in criminal procedures).

The volume of data which Ireland will receive from other countries using SIS II will be driven by circumstances, and cannot be defined with confidence at this time.

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 Ireland and Cyprus are 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.
  • The United Kingdom operates SIS but, as it has chosen not to join the Schengen area, it cannot issue or access Schengen-wide alerts for refusing entry and stay into the Schengen area.
  • Ireland and Cyprus are not yet connected to SIS. Ireland is scheduled to join in early 2020.  As is the case for the UK, Ireland will not be able to issue or access Schengen alerts for refusing entry or stay.  Cyprus has a temporary derogation from joining the Schengen area and is not yet connected to SIS.