Major upgrades to the Schengen Information System (SIS) were made available yesterday, March 7th 2023, to all the EU Member States and Associated Countries that use the system in their daily efforts to ensure the world's largest visa-free area is safe and secure. The 30 countries connected to Europe's largest IT system for internal security and border management now have access to a new set of functionalities and search capabilities which provide their authorised users with multiple ways to identify, amongst others, missing people and stolen goods or property.
SIS now allows its users to enter alerts about children at risk of abduction and vulnerable persons considered to be at risk. These data entries can be searched and cross-referenced by border authorities and thus help prevent minors from being taken unlawfully abroad.
A further extension to SIS is the addition of return decisions, associated to non-EU nationals identified as no longer having the right to be in the Schengen Area. Through the use of these, border and law enforcement authorities are facilitated in managing irregular migration.
The possibility of using biometric data to search SIS has also been expanded. The use of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was first integrated into SIS by eu-LISA in 2018. As its name suggests, AFIS allows searches to be performed solely using fingerprints. Today, competent authorities can also attempt to match partial prints and palmprints.
Enhanced collaboration, cooperation and information sharing is now possible throughout Europe thanks to the broadened user base of SIS. Teams belonging to the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation as well as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) can now access data in SIS as can additional competent Member State national authorities. The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) is now in a position to exchange information with Member States on alerts concerning terrorist offences.
When asked about SIS and yesterday's successful launch,
Mr Stephan Brandes, eu-LISA's Head of the Operations Department said "Created in 1995 to assist law enforcement authorities across Europe to collaborate in the newly formed Schengen Area, SIS was officially entrusted to eu-LISA in 2013. Through the years that followed, eu-LISA extended and expanded the capacity of SIS as well as its functionalities to culminate in the latest release that we have just launched. Many experts and professionals at eu-LISA, at the European Commission and across all the Member States, have dedicated their time and efforts to reaching the point we are at now. We are all very proud of the fact that our work goes directly into providing European law enforcement authorities with the tools and means to improve their collaboration and ensure that we can go about our daily lives in a safe and secure environment."