FECL 32 (March 1995):
A month before the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement, the Schengen Information System, the first European databank for policing, contained two million items of data on persons and objects. The further upgrading of the system, as well as of the complementary SIRENE systems, is under way.
While the setting-up of the SIS has gradually become known to a larger public, a second system of automated data banks, the so-called "SIRENE" system set up within the framework of the Schengen group has, so far, drawn little attention. However, the SIRENEs are far more dubious than the SIS, so far as extensive automatic exchange of data and data protection are concerned. While the SIS contains only limited, so-called "standardised" information, the national SIRENEs contain comprehensive, non-standardised information - that is, "free text" material which includes "soft" data on non-suspect persons.
"SIRENE" stands for "Supplementary Information at the National Entry". The SIRENEs' role is to enable the mutual exchange of information between national police authorities of the Schengen states about persons and objects registered in the SIS. Thus, via the SIRENE system, police in one member state who have arrested a person whose name has been entered into the SIS by another member state can request additional information (not contained in the SIS) from the state that has entered the data into the SIS.
In the seven Schengen states now implementing the Agreement, the SIRENE offices are operational 24 hours a day.
The Provisional Common Authority of Control (ACCP) of the Schengen Agreement has expressed the need to provide the SIRENEs with a "satisfactory legal basis". Indeed, the SIRENE system is not even mentioned in the Schengen Implementing Agreement.
The C-SIS (Central support) in Strasbourg
The functioning of the C-SIS is ensured by a staff of nine managers and 18 operators, organised in 5 teams.
Apart from the respective national police authorities, the national authorities with responsibility for issuing visas now have access to the SIS, as far as information on "undesirable foreigners" (Schengen Implementing Agreement article 96) is concerned.
The setting-up of a Permanent Management Unit for the administration of the system as a whole (including the N-SIS and the SIRENE-offices) is under way.
In February, the C-SIS in Strasbourg contained 1,916,247 items of data. The large majority of these data were entered by Germany (1,171,491) and France (699,799). Almost 800,000 items of personal data stored in the C-SIS concern "undesirable foreigners" (including asylum-seekers whose application has been turned down in one Schengen member state). A total of 2,788 persons were registered in the SIS for the purpose of extradition. France was the only country having reported persons for "covert surveillance" (1,286) according to article 99 of the Schengen Implementing Agreement. Germany reported 130,143 stolen identity documents.
Sources: Décision de l'Autorité de Contrôle Commune Provisoire (ACCP), Brussels, 22.2.95, SCH/Aut-contr (94) déc. 3 rev.; Note du Comité d'Orientation SIS, Brussels, 24.2.95, SCH/OR.SIS (95) 17, 2e rév.