SIS II takes ominous shape

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"Requirements" for SIS II, the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS) have been outlined by the EU. The proposals would introduce a number of new functions for the SIS, allow more types of personal information to be retained, provide wider access to law enforcement and administrative agencies and reduce data protection standards.

The Schengen Convention was adopted in 1990 and lead to a whole series of measures for common standards and cooperation between its member states - collectively this is known as the Schengen acquis. Under the Amsterdam Treaty this acquis was incorporated into the EU and the whole acquis (which is still being added to) has to be adopted and implemented by all the EU applicant states.

The Schengen Information System (SIS) became operational in March 1995. This extensive database is housed in Strasbourg. Thirteen of the 15 EU states (excluding the UK and Ireland) are full "Schengen" members (signed up the the full Schengen Convention/acquis including the SIS). The UK and Ireland (who share a "common travel area") are about to participate in the SIS only on police, but not immigration, aspects. Two non-EU states - Norway and Iceland - are fully sign-up too, making a total of 15 states fully in Schengen.

The database is comprised on records put in by each of its EU member states which is then accessed by the other state agencies. The SIS database, which contains basic information, is backed up by a SIRENE Bureaux in each state which provides on request more detailed information/intelligence.

New functions

Four new functions for the SIS are planned. Two incorporate recent proposals - revealed by Statewatch - to create a database of violent trouble-makers, who to be prevented from travelling to certain events during certain periods, and another detailing all visas issued (and refused) Protestors database. The other two new roles for the SIS are entirely new proposals and would create a "restricted access terrorist database" and a new category of "persons precluded from leaving the Schengen area", including people under criminal investigation, prisoners on conditional release and children at risk from abduction.

New data

Under the proposals SIS II will contain new additional "identification material" such as photographs, fingerprints and "possibly even other material" (a potentially veiled reference to DNA profiles) as well as "intelligence markers", or police supposition, which would bring in suspected offences, any "psychological danger", covert markers (eg. "suspected drug dealer") and objects "owned, held or used".

The document also suggests biometrics records that would be linked by "SIS II to national databases for… facial/iris recognition, number plate recognition and fingerprint identification". In addition it is proposed to create "new categories of objects for the purpose of seizure, use as evidence in criminal proceedings or surveillance" and to record every search on the SIS that is carried out. It is claimed that this would allow greater data protection supervision although it would also expose enquiries by authorities in one member states to those of all the others.

New access

Data held in SIS II is to be made available to a number of new agencies. Europol and Eurojust will have access to SIS II - Europol may even be able to add, amend, modify and delete data, see: Europol powers extended. Public prosecutors and magistrates will be able to access the European Arrest Warrants which will be retained on the SIS and transmitted to police through either the SIRENE bureaux or Interpol (this matter is still under discussion).

It is also proposed to allow asylum authorities to check data under article 96 (see below) and to extend access for authorities issuing residence permits to data on lost or stolen identity documents.

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