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DNA profiles to be included in the Schengen Information System?
7.12.16
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Following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels this year and last, EU and national officials began another round of discussions on how to increase information-sharing amongst law enforcement authorities across the continent. Amongst a flurry of proposals included in a new "roadmap" on information exchange is a suggestion to include DNA profiles in the Schengen Information System, the EU-wide policing and migration database.

The roadmap was drawn up in May 2015 within the Council and received political approval from national justice and interior ministers at the
JHA Council meeting in June 2016 (pdf): 'Theme 3' is "optimal use of European information systems", under which can be found item 11: "enhance the effectiveness of using the Schengen Information System (SIS)."

That heading encompasses three actions, the first of which is:

"Law enforcement, border guard authorities and immigration services include when available identifiers in alerts (copy passport, digital photo, biometrics, DNA-profiles to be considered) on the basis of existing legal provisions."

Further below, the roadmap asserts that for this action, there are "no legal changes required".

The legislation underpinning the SIS already permits the inclusion of photographs and fingerprints, which are subject to specific rules: they must be of a certain quality; and they are only be accessible through searches of alphanumeric data, although the legislation includes an obligation to permit searches based on fingerprints "as soon as this becomes technically possible."

Member States are thus within their rights to work towards including photographs and fingerprints in the system - but there is nothing in the legislation about the inclusion of DNA profiles. And while there is nothing to prevent the "consideration" of including DNA in the SIS - however undesirable that may be - doing so as part of a secretive, labyrinthine process that is currently relegated to discussions amongst EU and national law enforcement and IT specialists inspires neither trust nor confidence.

The efforts to "enhance the effectiveness of using the SIS" are, according to the roadmap, "a gradual ongoing process depending on national availability and possibilities," with the main "stakeholders" listed as being Europol, Eurojust, Frontex and the SIRENE Bureaux (the national offices that deal with information exchange through the SIS network). The process is being monitored the Council's SIS/SIRENE working party.

Meanwhile, the primary responsibility for the process apparently lies with the Member States, the Commission and the EU's Agency for Large-Scale IT Systems (eu-LISA) - with not a democratically-elected representative in sight. It seems that the European and national parliaments should be better-informed about the issues under discussion.

Source: Roadmap to enhance information exchange and information management including interoperability solutions in the Justice and Home Affairs area (LIMITE doc no: 13554-REV-1-16, pdf)

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