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Schengen enlargement: free movement of persons, abolition of border checks etc.

Schengen Information System (SIS)

How can criminals be detected when their travel documents are not checked?

Any state wishing to join the Schengen area must implement all measures compensating for the abolition of police checks at the internal borders - the Schengen standards. These Schengen standards include very close police and judicial cooperation; such a level could not be achieved outside the framework of the preparations related to the Schengen enlargement. Thus, if it was possible to escape justice by staying in another country, since joining Schengen it is only a matter of time before such a person is detected.

In particular, the Schengen Information System (SIS) presents an immensely powerful instrument for detecting persons who have violated the law. This database of wanted persons and objects contains more than 27 millions of alerts (as of November 2008). In the Czech Republic, access to the SIS data is provided to practically all police officers of the Criminal, Public Order, Traffic, and Alien Police.

For security reasons and for a limited period of time, it is also possible in exceptional cases to temporarily reintroduce border control at internal (land) borders and carry out regular checks at border crossing points.

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May a Schengen Member State restrict free movement of a citizen of another Schengen state? If yes, under what conditions?

The right of free movement of another Member State's citizens may also be restricted, but only if they pose a threat to public policy, public security and public health. In an exceptional case, such persons may even be expelled from the given state's territory. This, however, has no effect on their free movement in the territories of other Member States.

What happened with the customs officers at the borders?

Customs officers already left the land border crossing points in May 2004, when the Czech Republic, by entering the EU, became also a member of the EU internal market. Thus only officers of the Alien and Border Police remained at the land border crossing points.

After the integration of the Czech Republic to Schengen, these police officers also finished their work of protecting the land borders. A part of them has been reassigned to the Traffic and Public Order Police, where they can use their former experience. The rest of the officers of the Alien Police has been assigned tasks related to the stay of aliens. The presence of the police in the border regions has been maintained.

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When somebody has been refused entry to the Czech Republic and acquires a visa e.g. in France, how do we prevent his/her entry to the Czech territory?

The Czech Republic has been entering all alerts on persons to be refused entry to the Schengen territory to the Schengen Information System (SIS). All third-country nationals (except for third-country nationals enjoying the Community right of free movement) are thoroughly checked when crossing the external Schengen borders, including a check in the SIS. In case of a hit, they are refused entry.

Persons registered in the SIS are usually not granted a visa. Exceptionally, a visa can be granted in justified cases also to persons who do not meet all conditions for entry. In such a case, however, the visa validity is limited to the territory of the state which has issued the visa, and other countries must be informed of this measure.

Thus, if the Czech Republic entered an alert in the SIS for the purpose of refusing entry, the French authorities, if they were interested in granting a visa, would have to consult the Czech authorities before deciding to grant or refuse such visa. If France decided to grant the visa even so, it would have to be only a national visa limited only to the French territory. The fact that a visa with a limited territorial validity has been issued must be announced to other Schengen partners.

The Czech authorities may subsequently detect the presence of such a person in the Czech territory by regular police checks.


How can I learn that my personal data have been registered in the Schengen Information System?

You are entitled to inquire whether and what personal data concerning you is contained in the Schengen Information System (SIS), why it has been entered (for which purpose) and by which authority.

At the same time, you are guaranteed the right to have factually inaccurate data (i.e. inaccurately entered) processed in the SIS concerning you corrected and any unlawfully stored data (such which should not have been entered at all) deleted from the SIS.

These rights are exercised always in compliance with the national legislation of the country in which they are claimed and the relevant procedures in individual Member States may therefore differ. In the Czech Republic, it is necessary to address primarily the administrator of personal data (Police of the Czech Republic - postal address: Policie ČR, Policejní prezidium ČR, Strojnická 27, Praha 7, 170 89), and if this request is not satisfied, or if you find the response unsatisfactory, you may contact the Office for Personal Data Protection, and ask for a review of the procedure of processing your personal data.

How is the protection of personal data ensured?

As the SIS contains a large amount of information, including personal and sensitive data, its use must be regulated by very strict data protection rules, the observation of which is supervised by independent authorities (in the Czech Republic by the Office for Personal Data Protection). Moreover, everybody has the right to inquire if and what personal data is kept on them in the SIS, for what purpose it was entered and by which authority. If it proves that the data is incorrect, the person concerned has the right to have them corrected, or deleted. The right to information, correction or deletion of data is closely connected with the right to bring before the court an action to correct, delete or obtain information on the processing of one's personal data, or to obtain compensation in connection with the processing of one's personal data.

In the Czech Republic, the protection of personal data in the SIS is ensured, inter alia, as follows:

Access to the SIS has been provided only to authorised users. Every end user (i.e. a person having access to the SIS data) is provided with specified rights of access on a need-to-know basis. All accesses to the SIS are logged, i.e. it is subsequently any time possible to verify by whom, when, where and for what purpose the data in the SIS were screened. Compliance with strict rules is examined through internal mechanisms of each relevant authority as well as by means of external supervision, including inspections by an independent supervisory authority.

Within the Police of the Czech Republic, a competent officer - an authorized user with a clearly defined user role - has access to the SIS data through a unified query procedure. This applied already beforehand for the search in the national police databases. Since September 2007, selected police officers use this procedure to query also the SIS, only to the extent necessary for meeting the purpose of the alert.

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What data are kept in the Schengen Information System?

The Schengen Information System (SIS) contains only selected data on:

  • persons to be arrested for the purposes of surrender pursuant to the European Arrest Warrant or extradition in cases when the European Arrest Warrant is not applied;
  • aliens to be refused entry to the Schengen territory (concerns only nationals of third countries, i.e. countries which are not part of the EU/Schengen; family members of EU citizens do not fall in this category),
  • missing persons;
  • witnesses and persons summoned by judicial authorities for the purposes of criminal proceedings;
  • persons or vehicles for the purpose of discreet surveillance or specific checks;
  • objects sought as evidence in criminal proceedings (e.g. motor vehicles, weapons, banknotes, documents etc.).

All data contained in the SIS is entered by individual Schengen states. Strict conditions of data protection apply to the SIS and their observation is ensured by rigorous control mechanisms. For instance, any person may inquire if and what personal data concerning him/her is kept in the SIS and for what purpose it was entered. If the answer of the data administrator (Police of the Czech Republic) is not satisfactory, they may address the competent supervisory body (Office for Personal Data Protection).

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Who can search the data kept in the SIS?

Access to data in the SIS and the right to search these data is exclusively limited to the authorities of the Schengen states competent to carry out border checks and other police and customs checks inside their countries and vicariously also judicial authorities. In addition, visa-issuing authorities and authorities responsible for granting residence permits or asylum have access to data regarding aliens to be refused entry to the Schengen area. Authorities responsible for the registration of vehicles have access to the data on sought vehicles.

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Who has access to the data in the SIS in the Czech Republic?

In the same way as in the present Schengen states, access to the SIS is limited only to selected authorities which need the SIS data for execution of their tasks as defined by the law.

The authority which uses the SIS most extensively during its everyday work is the Police of the Czech Republic. The police operate the national SIS unit (N. SIS); the SIRENE Office provides additional information to alerts kept in the SIS and facilitate international communication. The Police also have the largest number of SIS users: as many as approx. 18, 000 PC terminals have access to the SIS; it is possible to enter Czech alerts to the SIS from approximately 1, 300 terminals.

Other authorities, which are allowed to retrieve data from the SIS, include the Customs Administration, the Asylum and Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Transport, or more precisely, authorities registering motor vehicles.

Indirectly, i.e. through the Police of the Czech Republic, the SIS data are available also to judicial authorities during criminal proceedings and diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic during the processing of visa applications by the Police of the Czech Republic.

As a part of its supervisory powers, the Office for Personal Data Protection also have access to the data processed in the SIS.

Is an alert in the SIS a reason for refusing entry to the Schengen territory?

Yes and no. An alert in the SIS is one of the reasons for refusing entry to the Schengen territory. However, in case of family members of persons enjoying the Community right of free movement, it must always be considered whether the presence of such a person in the territory of a Schengen state presents a real, current and sufficiently serious threat to some fundamental interest of the Schengen states