After a long wait the UK has now been linked to the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) and will have access to its extensive data and alerts from March 2015. SIS II is a massive information system containing alerts on persons and objects and can be accessed by border guards, customs officers, visa- and law-enforcement authorities throughout the Schengen area.
The Schengen area consists of 22 EU member states plus 4 associate countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). All these countries have full access to SIS II.
The UK does not participate in Schengen's wider rules, including the effective abolition of internal borders, but does now have partial access to SIS II for the purposes of police and criminal justice matters.
SIS II provides for a variety of different alerts including:
- alerts on persons wanted for arrest for surrender purposes on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant and other persons wanted for extradition purposes;
- data on missing persons who need to be placed under police protection and/or whose whereabouts need to be ascertained;
- alerts on persons sought to assist with a judicial procedure;
- alerts on persons or vehicles, boats, aircraft and containers for checks for the purposes of prosecuting criminal offences and for the prevention of threats to public security; and
- data on objects sought for the purposes of seizure or use as evidence in criminal proceedings.
SIS II also provides for specific immigration related alerts for persons who it is felt should be denied visas or entry to Member States however, as the UK is not party to the wider Schengen rules it does not have access to these alerts.
It is fair to say that SIS II was seen as something of key importance to this government and it featured prominently in the package of EU Police and Criminal Justice measures that the UK opted into in December 2014.
Practically speaking it is too early to tell how much of an impact SIS II will have but senior extradition judges in the UK have recently given evidence to the House of Lords that they have been briefed to expect a large increase in the numbers of European Arrest Warrants that are dealt with in the UK.
The system allows for the instantaneous electronic circulation of European Arrest Warrants and indeed notices in relation to extradition request from other parts of the world. Changes have already been made to the Extradition Act 2003 to facilitate the receipt of European Arrest Warrants via SIS II.
The implementation of SIS II combined with the ever-present INTERPOL notice system makes it more important than ever that anyone who fears they may be the target of an extradition request obtain expert advice as soon as possible and certainly before travelling.