While most other countries, including Britain, have linked into the EU’s central Schengen Information System (SIS II), Ireland has not done so to date.
As a result, anybody refused entry into the EU or anyone holding a lost or stolen passport could stell get through Ireland’s border controls.
The Government has said it wants to be part of SIS II, has signed up to it, has been given time to join, but still has not been added to it.
Becoming part of the system is complex and takes time, requiring the State to select software and hardware to set up the Irish end of the system.
Once it is technically ready, the system would have to be evaluated to ensure it functions properly and be linked up to the central database in Strasbourg, run by an EU agency.
In the meantime, gardaí check against an existing database or rely on Interpol or other agencies to provide them with alerts, and provide other countries with information about who or what Ireland is seeking.
The system, which was officially launched two years ago, provides information on individuals who do not have the right to enter or stay in the Schengen area, including Britain and Ireland, or on those who are wanted for criminal activities.
It also has information on missing persons, including children and other vulnerable people who need protection.
The details of certain stolen goods are also recorded, including cars, weapons, boats, and identity documents that have been lost or stolen or that were used in a crime.
Currently, the data on people stored in the SIS II system includes a picture and, in some cases, fingerprints, as well as a name As soon as possible, fingerprints may also be used to identify a third-country national on the basis of the biometric identifier.
A pilot project is also underway in some countries were the biometric photograph in the passport is technically matched against the persons face as they pass through the control.
The reasons for issuing an alert include:
- To refuse entry to persons who do not have the right to enter or stay in Schengen territory;
- To find and detain a person for whom a European Arrest Warrant has been issued;
- To assist in locating individuals or objects as requested by judicial or law enforcement authorities;
- To find and protect a missing person;
- To find stolen or lost property;
SIS II system cost €168m and was launched by then justice minister Alan Shatter during the Irish presidency of the EU in 2013.
Being a state-of-the-art IT system and one of the largest of its kind worldwide, it was designed to ensure strong data protection with no information given to third countries.
There are more than 45m alerts in SIS II and it is capable of handing up to 100 at present. The largest number of alerts concern lost or stolen documents over followed by stolen vehicles.