Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by JUSTICE


  JUSTICE is soon to publish a report on the Schengen Information System (SIS)[15] which is based on research as the system is working in four EU member states. Its focus is on the human rights implications of this large database. In May 1999 the UK formally applied to join the SIS, although it does not intend to access or enter information relating to "unwanted aliens" under Art. 96 of the Schengen Convention, it is expected that the SIS will be operational at UK ports of entry within two years.

  In this note, we refer to some points arising out of our findings which may be relevant to the above inquiry.

  The SIS was set up for two different purposes: to guarantee public order and security through crime controls and to underpin provisions on free movement of persons through immigration controls. The number of entries give an idea of the balance between these two purposes: the majority (around 8.4 million) are in relation to "objects" such as stolen cars and documents, where the data is held for policing purposes. Of the 1.3 million entries relating to individuals, around 89 per cent are held on "unwanted aliens" for immigration purposes. Only 7 per cent of the entries on individuals have a connection with crime.

  In terms of the UK application to join the policing side, it will essentially be joining a large-clearing house to check on stolen objects, rather than to identify individuals as suspected criminals.

  On the immigration side, we question whether the UK will be able to maintain a stance of partial participation in the longer term, particularly in view of the Government's intention to participate relatively fully in the new Title IV immigration and asylum measures. This dilemma has already been raised by the Commission in relation to travel rights of third country nationals legally resident in the EU.[16] Although the UK says that it does not intend at present to participate in this part of the Schengen acquis (as incorporated into Title IV), applications for visas and residence permits for such persons are required to be checked against Art 96 entries before being granted. In fact, full SIS participation may well be seen as a prerequisite to signing up to aspects of Title IV. This would be on the basis that all member states must play their part in ensuring that those persons identified as unwanted aliens do not enter the EU, irrespective of who has made the SIS entry.

  It seems inevitable that political pressure will be brought to bear on the UK both to enforce Art 96 alerts at its borders and to enter "unwanted aliens" itself. As our research highlights a number of concerns in relation to Art 96 entries—particularly in relation to the implications for individual safeguards—any application by the UK to join this part of the SIS as well would need to be carefully examined.

  Our report is due to be published in early June. If, however, the Committee would like to have more details of our research findings before then, please let us know.

Madeleine Colvin

Legal Policy Consultant

7 April 2000

15   The report, The Schengen Information System: a human rights audit, was published in December 2000. Back

16   Commission Opinion on the request by the UK to take part in certain provisions of the Schengen acquis, IP/99/550. 20 July 1999. Back

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