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Council's internal security committee discusses use of "discreet checks" in the Schengen Information System
28.2.18
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The Council of the EU is discussing how to improve the use of Article 36 alerts in the Schengen Information System (SIS), which mandate "discreet checks or specific checks" on objects or persons linked to "serious criminal offences" and "for the prevention of threats to public security".

See: Travel movements of foreign terrorist fighters/returnees and persons involved in terrorism or terrorism related activities: Article 36, SIS II post-hit follow-up - Exchange of views (5635/1/18 REV 1, LIMITE, 13 February 2018, pdf)

A document drafted by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council and circulated to other delegations' representatives in the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI) sets out issues for discussion in relation to Article 36 alerts and "foreign terrorist fighters" (FTFs), in relation to whom two main problems are identified:

"firstly, identifying and tracing the travel movements of the detected FTFs/returnees/persons involved in terrorism or terrorism activities, and, secondly, effectively prevent the travels of such persons, e.g. by taking other relevant measures, as necessary (like issuing an Article 26 SIS alert)."

The Presidency invites COSI to consider a number of issues:

  • To revisit and outline effective implementation practices relating to the exiting SIS and SIRENE measures;
  • To explore how to improve the information exchange on the FTFs and returnees based on the SIS post -hit procedures, including 'post-hit' notification, when monitoring the movements of FTFs/returnees or individuals involved in terrorism or terrorism related activities;
  • To identify how to use better the metadata information from the SIS "hits“ and SIRENE forms in order to map patterns of movements of the FTF/returnees or individuals involved in terrorism or terrorism related activities;
  • To identify ways to optimise the exchange of good practices in terms of follow- up procedures for hits under Article 36 SIS alerts and the possibility to integrate it into Good Practices Catalogue;
  • Explore the possibilities for strengthening cooperation between the law enforcement authorities and security services at national and EU level.

While the document focuses specifically on foreign terrorist fighters, the criteria set out in the SIS Decision for issuing Article 36 alerts are somewhat vague and alerts are inserted in the system on the basis of Member States' differing legal frameworks. It is not unknown for alerts to be issued on political activists.

See: Travel movements of foreign terrorist fighters/returnees and persons involved in terrorism or terrorism related activities: Article 36, SIS II post-hit follow-up - Exchange of views (5635/1/18 REV 1, LIMITE, 13 February 2018, pdf)

Further reading

Information exchange for internal security: Council documents (April 2016)

Official reports on EU databases show massive increases in "discreet surveillance" and asylum seeker fingerprinting (July 2015)

Schengen Information System: 41,000 people subject to "discreet surveillance or specific checks" (April 2014)

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