Electronic instrument of migration control and deportation
09.Dec.01 - When the police forces and Justice and Home Affairs ministers of the
five original Schengen states started to plan the The Schengen
Information System (SIS) at the end of the 1980's, they justified the
central collection of data with the reasoning that the abolition of internal
border controls was a security risk as drug smugglers, terroritsts and
organised criminals could wander freely over European territory. This is
why Europe was in need of a common ivrstigation area, a common
system to investigate and search for persons and objects. A close
investigation of the nature of the data stored however, reveals that far
from being an instrument for security, the SIS is forst and foremost an
instrument of control and a means to detect and deport non-EU-
nationals. More recent plans point to the development that the SIS will in
future also be used to control the movement of political activists.
The SIS, which came into operation in 1995, is the first supranational
investigation system for law enforcement agencies which can be
accessed from local terminals of all participating states. It consists of a
central unit located in Strasbourg, which is linked to national systems.
The central unit ensures that all the data sets are saved both in the
central unit and the national systems. The national units are responsible
for posting notices on wanted persons or objects. In Germany for
example, this is the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BKA). The
national units are also contacted if a person is successfully traced down -
hence their name: SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request at the
National Entry). Via an independent communication network they
provide information that far surpasses the relatively short SIS data sets.
On 27 March 1995, the SIS was linked to seven states and came into
operation. These states were the five states which were the first to sign
the Schengen Implementation Agreement (SIA), that is, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany, as well as Spain and
Portugal. On 1 December 1997, Italy, Austria and Greece joined. Since 25
March 2001, the northern EU states Denmark, Sweden and Finland and
the non-EU-states Norway and Iceland also linked up with the Schengen
Information System, which means that altogether 15 national
components are linked to the central terminal in Strasbourg. Great Britain
and Ireland are planning to participate at least partially in the SIS. It is
only a matter of time until the eastern and southern European accession
states will join.
The SIS - a technical deportation device
By 1998, the SIS data volume had reached 8.6 million records, out of
which 7.4 million referred to property (cars, banknotes, stolen identity
cards, weapons). Because of the high percentage of so called alias-
groups (430.000) only 795.000 entries of the 1.2 million remaining person
specific data sets referred to actual people. As far as the tracing down of
people is concerned the SIS has turned out to be, first and foremost, an
instrument of a repressive migration and deportation policy.
Approximately 88% of wanted persons are third country nationals who
are to be deported or prevented from crossing the border into the EU.
This refusal of entry and deportation order, with its corresponding
collection of data, is regulated under Article 96 of the SIA.
During the course of the year 1998, the wanted persons list of the SIS
grew substantially. This is due to the fact that Italy, Austria and Greece
joined the system on 1 December 1997. Italy alone had entered 220.000
person specific data sets during 1998, and therefore became the second
largest owner of data sets of all the SIS member states. Out of these
220.000, 88% referred to Article 96 SIA. Germany however, remains the
country with the largest data base on people, with 350.000 entries - an
amount which corresponds to almost 44% of all person specific data sets
(Of these, 98 % refer to Article 96). France follows Italy with 113.000
person specific entries (60 % of which are Article 96 related).
Most of SIS related person specific investigations are directed against
Article 96 related non-EU migrants. The majority (56%) of successes, so-
called SIS "hits", concerns refugees and migrants as well, as they are
often stopped and searched by the police only because of their outer
appearances. Although the number of data sets referring to objects is
much higher that person specific data, successes in this area equal a
mere 26%. Out of these, 26% refer to stolen lorries that are successfully
traced down. The SIS is therefore most successful where control is the
easiest and therefore most often carried out on grounds of the size of the
object and in relation to people, due to easily detectable outer
appearances, that is skin colour.
Racist Control Practices
The deletion of redundant data sets, as it was carried out in 1997 for
example, prove the low efficiency of the (almost) EU-wide electronic
investigation system. The SIS is only efficient in so far as it can enforce
practice of control typical for the electronic tracing on a European level:
in practise, this means that a person is stopped and searched not due to
a concrete suspicion, but because his/her outward appearance
corresponds to certain criteria and because there is a terminal available
from which the SIS can be accessed. These kind of stop and search
operations, independent from the existence of suspicion, were formerly
only allowed at the borders. But already the introduction of national
investigation systems had changed the criteria that determine what is
suspicious and what is not: in reference to the SIA, Germany first
introduced the "dragnet control", and therefore non-suspect related stop
and search operations, and later extended it from the border regions to
This shift can be detected from Germany's SIS statistics. Out of the 65
million SIS inquiries made by German authorities, 52 % were requested by
frontier officials and mobile patrols near the border. The remaining 47.5 %
of requests were made by police in the inland, therefore related to non-
suspect related stop and search operations that were carried out in inner
cities, on country roads and in trains, and that are first and foremost
directed against migrants.
SIS - the second generation:
When Austria, Italy and Greece joined the system in 1997, there were
indications that the capacity of the system would soon reach its limits.
The system was therefore expanded to include the "SIS 1 plus", before
the northern European states were linked up. Simultaneously, the
Schengen Executive Committee decided to build another SIS. The
present documents of the SIS working group of the European Council
and Schengen Executive Committee prove that they are not only aiming
at an expansion of the capacity of the system but are changing its
content as well. This will entail some changes in the Schengen
Implementation Agreement. So far, Italy is the only country that wants to
check the necessity for this change before approving the decision.
France has some reservations against the planned expansion of the data
storage period under Article 96 SIA (Refusal and deportation of non-EU-
migrants) and Article 99 SIA (police surveillance).
More data, longer storage periods, DNA profiles
Up to now person specific data can only be stored for three years, after
which it has to be reviewed. Data related to police surveillance is stored
for only for 12 months in the data base of the SIS. The expansion of the
period of time for which data can be stored will automatically result in an
rise of the number of person specific data. That is particularly so for
Article 96 related data, which, as already said, has made up 80-90% of all
person specific data over the past years.
The second generation of the SIS will not only result in an expansion in
quantity but also in a change in quality. So far, data sets have hardly
contained more than the warrant notice. Concerning persons this
included the personal details, the reason for the entry or investigation
(arrest, location of residence etc.) and details on the national authority
which posted the data into the system. Other personal details could only
amount to necessary short desciptions such as "violent" or "armed".
The SIS 2 will profoundly change that. It is planned not only to record
the "kind of criminal offence" and the information "runaway prisoner" or
"person in psychological danger", but also personal "identification
material", that is photographs, fingerprints and DNA profiles.
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