The European Commission announced today (15 March) that Ireland is joining the EU’s Schengen Information System, used to share data for internal security and external border management in the EU, writes Catherine Feore.
The entry into operation of the system in Ireland will support co-operation between law enforcement authorities on fighting cross-border crime and terrorism, helping to enhance internal security in Europe. When conducting passport checks at the Irish border, law enforcement authorities will now receive real-time information on people accused or convicted of crimes in other EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.
Irish Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “The Schengen Information System is the largest law enforcement database in Europe and Ireland’s connection to it will strengthen law enforcement cooperation and enhance security in Europe.
“An Garda Síochána and my department have been working towards this since 2016. Gardaí have had to build and test the complex IT infrastructure and develop the training needed to complete the connection to SIS II.
“I am confident that this will be a game-changer for Gardaí in their fight against cross-border crime.”
Ireland is not a member of the Schengen common travel area but takes part in some policing co-operation arrangements which are part of the Schengen Agreement, Ireland can now provide and receive data under SIS II. For example, all missing persons, persons in respect of whom an EAW exists, and certain categories of identifiable objects will be subject to a SIS II alert and shared on the SIS II database.
Drew Harris of An Garda Síochána said: “We in An Garda Síochána have been working towards the implementation of the Schengen Information System in Ireland for some time and are pleased to see it come into operation today.
“The benefits that SIS II will bring to policing in Ireland cannot be understated. Having access to the SIS II databases which contain law enforcement data from across 30 EU and associated Schengen countries. Accessing such information means that An Garda Síochána can swiftly deal with issues of serious crime with potential links to other European countries.”
An Garda Síochána has integrated the Garda National Immigration Bureau databases with SIS II, and members of An Garda Síochána and staff of the Border Management Unit and Immigration Service (ISD) will have the ability to see SIS data on their workstations.
The new SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request at the National Entries) Bureau within An Garda Síochána will be responsible for the daily management of the SIS system, which will operate on a 24/7 basis to ensure a timely response to alerts.
National authorities will also have access to information on stolen property, such as vehicles. To facilitate this co-operation.
At the end of 2020, the Schengen Information System contained approximately 93 million alerts. It was accessed 3.7 billion times in 2020 and contained 209,178 hits (when a search leads to an alert and the authorities confirm it).