This week the ‘second generation’ Schengen Information System (SIS II) entered into operation. The new system, which will be one of the largest IT systems of its kind worldwide, includes a new system of ‘alerts’ issued in order to identify persons who are not entitled to enter and move freely in the Schengen area, as well as persons sought in relation to criminal activities, missing persons and stolen documents and property.
The use of biometric data (fingerprints and photographs) has been introduced to the database, which will be accessible to national border control, police, customs, judicial and vehicle registration authorities, as well as Europol and Eurojust.
Following the implementation of the Returns Directive, EU re-entry bans may accompany all return decisions. Member States are obliged to issue a re-entry ban if the person is forcibly returned or if they have not respected the order to leave the territory. According to the Directive, entry bans “shall not in principle exceed five years”.
Member States may enter an alert in the SIS system to flag people who have been issued with a re-entry ban. The Meijers Committee has argued that amendments to the Returns Directive and the SIS II Regulation are needed to clarify their scope of application, and secure proportionality and effective judicial review.
ECRE opposes the imposition of an entry ban on asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected and who are facing return, as removal should be considered a sufficient resolution to their situation. Furthermore, an EU-wide entry ban does not take into account possible changes in the countries of origin that may entail risk of persecution and force individuals to leave again after they have been returned.
Through the issuing of entry bans and SIS alerts, asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected could be refused access to all Schengen states despite the fact that huge differences exist between national asylum systems in Europe, making the asylum system a ‘lottery’.
According to the European Commission, it is guaranteed that no data from SIS II will be made available to third countries or international organisations.
The initial target date for the delivery of SIS II was March 2007 and the total cost of the project since 2002 has been €167,784,606.