Cyprus – the last EU state to do so – gains access on Tuesday to the files of some 90 million EU citizens through the Schengen Information System (SIS) to bolster crime fighting.
As a result, local authorities will have access to an important tool in dealing with illegal migration, crime, and missing persons.
In comments to the news site Philenews, the director of the Cyprus SIRENE (Supplementary Information Requested at the National Entries) bureau, Dora Nikandrou, said the development resulted from actions taken by the Foreign Ministry.
She said it is the outcome of a 2019 statement of readiness for inclusion in the Schengen area, submitted by the foreign minister at the time and current President Nikos Christodoulides.
Since 2019, the state has undergone an evaluation process covering five areas, the last of which concerns the operation of SIS.
Nikandrou said: “The island’s inclusion in the information system does not mean that Cyprus becomes a full member of Schengen and EU border controls will not be immediately abolished”.
As of July 25, when Cyprus joins the SIS, what will change is that authorities will be privy to the files of 90 million people.
Among them are persons who are wanted, disappeared, vulnerable, or third-country nationals against whom an extradition order has been issued.
“Cyprus was the only EU member state which was not connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS), which did not allow it to access to the data… which created a gap in internal security and combating irregular immigration, in Cyprus and the EU,” said Nikandrou.
The system will be made available to the customs, road transport, deputy shipping ministry and civil aviation departments, granting them more visibility.
SIS is the fastest data transfer system in Europe and will reduce processing time, from days to minutes, for information sharing between authorities of different states.
“For example, police investigators in Cyprus can register the details of a suspect in a criminal case they are investigating in real-time, and within minutes receive information.
“Until now, such procedures took days,” she said.
As a prerequisite for gaining access, Cyprus created a national SIS database, established a SIRENE bureau, and created a data protection supervisory authority to ensure the legality of personal data processing.
“There is no doubt the interconnection of Cyprus with the SIS will help the fight against crime at the national as well as the European level.
“It is proven that today crime has become international… SIS is the counterbalance to the dangers inherent in free movement in relation to crime since the speed and immediacy with which information reaches one user to another makes the work of criminals more difficult,” said Nikandrou.